Now that one is ready with the DNA of the research, the question arises what needs to be done with it? How do I solve my problem? How do I structure my problem? This is where the role of research design comes into picture.
Now, what is a research design?
A research design is a work plan that details what has to be done to complete the project in a structured manner. It helps in structuring the problem and describing various ways of collecting the data and the instruments involved in collecting the data. It tells how the instruments will be used to analyze the data and eventually will help in effectively addressing the research problem as unambiguously as possible.
The research design is broadly classified as:
- Exploratory Research
- Descriptive research
- Causal Research
Researchers normally ask two types of questions:
1 What is going on (descriptive research)?
2 Why is it going on (explanatory research)
This research is conducted when there are few or absolutely no studies to refer to and one has no idea as to what needs to be done. The focus is on gaining insights and familiarity for later investigation. It allows the researcher to familiarize himself with the problem or concept to be studied, and generate s hypotheses to be tested.
Exploratory research can rely on:
- Secondary research such as reviewing available literature (which is often difficult to find as no studies might be done on that topic earlier)
- Qualitative approach such as:
- Informal discussions with consumers, employees, management or competitors
- Formal approaches through in-depth interviews, focus groups, projective methods, case studies or pilot studies
The results of exploratory research give insight into a given situation by answering as to “why”, “how”, and “when” something occurs. It cannot tell us “how often” or “how many”. In other words, the results can neither be generalized; they are not representative of the whole population being studied. Exploratory research must happen first and is then followed by descriptive research.
Descriptive research designs help provide answers to the questions of who, what, when, where, and how associated with a particular research problem; a descriptive study cannot conclusively ascertain answers to why. With descriptive research, we try to describe some group of people other entities.
Descriptive research may be divided into: Longitudinal study and cross-sectional study
A longitudinal study is carried over a long period of time. It involves a panel, which is a fixed sample of elements. The elements may be stores, dealers, individuals, or other entities. The following may be the examples of this research: Census, Ranking of B-schools, credit rating, readership rating, etc.
A cross sectional study involves drawing a sample from the population of interest. This study is done for only one point of time.
Descriptive research is used for the following purposes:
- To describe characteristics of certain groups
- To determine the proportion of people who behave in a certain way
- To make specific predictions
- To determine relationships between variables
Causal represents the cause-effect relationship; the idea that one thing leads to the occurrence of other. Causality research designs helps researchers understand why the world works the way it does through the process of proving a causal link between variables and eliminating other possibilities. This is undertaken to find out whether any relationship exists between two variables – one being the cause and the other being the result. It is done through experiments.
It is of two types: