Research Design Bootcamp for your thesis

What’s a research design

A research design is a plan or strategy that is used to direct a research project from start to finish. It’s essential to have a well-conceived research plan in order to gather and evaluate data in a consistent, reliable, and accurate manner. Knowing different research design types is critical to ensuring the research approach is fitting for the research objectives, resources, and questions. Insufficient comprehension of the research design can result in researchers making mistakes in their methodology, such as selecting sampling methods, data collection, and analysis. However, there is a lot of confusion about what a research design means; some define it as a methodology, while others regard it as the sum of all design choices. This article seeks to illuminate the most typical research design types for both qualitative and quantitative research projects, irrespective of whether it’s a complete dissertation or thesis or a smaller research article or paper.

Quantitative research designs

A quantitative research design is a strategy used for conducting research using numerical data. This involves the collection and analysis of data in numerical form. There are four key types of quantitative research designs, which include descriptive, correlational, experimental, and quasi-experimental.

Descriptive research design involves obtaining systematic data to describe existing situational, behavioral, or qualitative properties without altering variables. It is important to note that this research design only describes and does not seek connections between different variables or their causes. Descriptive research is commonly used as an initial step to other forms of research designs. Conversely, correlational research design helps researchers identify and measure relationships between variables without making modifications. It is useful for predicting outcomes on a large scale when there are obstacles such as logistics or ethical concerns. However, it is crucial to understand that causality cannot be proven using correlational research and experimental design must be used instead.

Experimental research design is employed to investigate whether a causal relationship exists between different variables. The independent variable is manipulated by the researcher and other variables are controlled in order to observe the effect of the former on the latter. This helps draw conclusions about the possibility of causality. Although experimental research design can be useful in identifying causal relationships, it can be challenging to develop because it’s difficult to control all the variables in a study. This can lead to smaller sample sizes and weaken statistical power and generalizability of results. Furthermore, it requires random assignment, which may raise ethical dilemmas by denying some participants potential medical treatment. Quasi-experimental research design is utilized when it is impractical or unethical to randomly assign participants to different groups. It relies on pre-existing groups for comparison. Even though quasi-experimental design has limitations compared to experimental design, it can still be useful in research when random assignment is not feasible and can generate results on a larger scale, which can boost statistical power.

Qualitative research designs

Different design types exist for qualitative research studies, but we will only focus on analyzing the most popular schemes.

The Phenomenological research design centers around comprehending how individuals perceive and undergo various situations, without imposing any preconceived or predetermined notions on them. This is achieved by conducting detailed interviews or using questionnaires that allow participants to provide subjective experiences. This research design has a significant advantage in providing a diverse range of data but is limited and subject to potential biases when collecting and interpreting this data. It also cannot be applied generally to broader populations. Conversely, the Grounded theory research design aims to develop theories by analyzing and comparing data extracted from many participants in a continuous and iterative manner. This model is inductive and empowers the direct development of theories from data, free from any preexisting theories or assumptions. It incorporates collecting data through interviews or observations and continuously validating emerging notions through further data collection until no further information can be obtained. This design is ideal for generating theories in areas with limited research, but it can be time-intensive necessitating multiple rounds for data collection and analysis.

The ethnographic research method involves observing and studying a particular group of people who share the same culture within their natural environment, with the goal of understanding their beliefs, values and actions. The researcher must spend a significant amount of time with the subjects, taking notes and conducting in-depth interviews to explore areas of interest that arise. This approach provides invaluable insights into human behavior within a specific context, but comes with challenges such as the potential for researcher bias, concerns over confidentiality, and ethical issues. In contrast, case study research examines a single individual or group in-depth within a specific setting or context. Data collection includes a range of sources such as interviews, documents, statements, and surveys. While case studies offer a detailed analysis of specific circumstances, their findings are not necessarily applicable to broader populations.

Choosing a research design

If you’re having difficulty choosing your research methodology, there are a number of factors to consider. Firstly, you need to decide whether you’ll be collecting qualitative or quantitative data, which will strongly influence your choice of methodology. You must also take into account your research aim and questions, as these will inform the most appropriate method to use. Additionally, you’ll need to consider practicalities such as time constraints and available resources, as more complex methodologies may not be viable given your limitations. It’s important to manage risk and be cautious in your approach, avoiding overly complicated methodologies that could put the project at risk. In the end, a simple methodology that is implemented well is likely to be more effective than a complex one executed poorly.


This article covered a significant amount of important information. To summarize, the main points are:

  • The term research design refers to the overall plan, structure, or strategy that guides a research project from beginning to end.
  • Various types of research designs are available for both quantitative and qualitative studies, such as descriptive, correlational, experimental, quasi-experimental, phenomenological, grounded theory, ethnographic, and case study designs.
  • When picking a research design, you should take several factors into account, including the kind of data you will be handling, your research targets and questions, and your available time and resources.