How to create a research design

The research design is a framework for planning your research and answering your research questions. Creating a research design means making decisions about:

  • The type of data you need
  • The location and timescale of the research
  • The participants and sources
  • The variables and hypotheses (if relevant)
  • The methods for collecting and analyzing data

The research design sets the parameters of your project: it determines exactly what will and will not be included. It also defines the criteria by which you will evaluate your results and draw your conclusions. The reliability and validity of your study depends on how you collect, measure, analyze, and interpret your data.

A strong research design is crucial to a successful research proposal, scientific paper, or dissertation.

Continue reading: How to create a research design

Active and passive sentences

The passive voice occurs when the person or thing that performs an action is not the grammatical subject of the sentence. Instead, the person or thing that receives the action is placed before the verb. Passive sentences are formed using the verb to be combined with a past participle.

Active construction

The dog bites the bone.

Passive construction

The bone is bitten by the dog.

In a passive construction, the actor does not have to be named at all.

Passive construction

The bone is bitten.

Writers are often advised to avoid the passive voice, but it is not a grammatical error. In academic writing, this type of sentence structure is sometimes useful or necessary. However, overusing it can make your writing unclear or convoluted.

Continue reading: Active and passive sentences

Using pronouns in academic writing

Pronouns are words that stand in for nouns. They can refer to specific people and things (e.g. I, you, ithimtheir, this) or to non-specific people and things (e.g. anybody, one, some, each).

In academic writing, there are debates around the appropriate use of first-person pronouns (I, we) and gendered pronouns (he, she). Second person pronouns (you, yours) should almost always be avoided.

Continue reading: Using pronouns in academic writing

Quotation marks (“”)

Quotation marks (also known as speech marks, quotes or inverted commas) are used to set off direct speech and quotations.

In academic writing, you need to use quotation marks when you quote a source. This includes quotes from published works and primary data such as interviews. The exception is when you use a block quote, which should be set off and indented without quotation marks.

Whenever you quote someone else’s words, it is essential to introduce the quotation and integrate it into your own text – don’t rely on quotations to make your points for you.

Continue reading: Quotation marks (“”)

Descriptive research

Descriptive research aims to accurately and systematically describe a population, situation or phenomenon. It can answer what, when, where, when and how questions, but not why questions. To determine cause and effect, experimental research is required.

A descriptive research design can use a wide variety of quantitative and qualitative methods to investigate one or more variables. Unlike in experimental research, the researcher does not control or manipulate any of the variables, but only observes and measures them.

Continue reading: Descriptive research

How to do a case study

A case study is a detailed study of a specific subject, such as a person, group, place, event, organization, or phenomenon. Case studies are commonly used in social, educational, clinical, and business research.

A case study research design usually involves qualitative methods, but quantitative methods are sometimes also used. Case studies are good for describing, comparing, evaluating and understanding different aspects of a research problem.

Continue reading: How to do a case study

How to write a research proposal

A research proposal describes what you will investigate, why it’s important, and how you will do the research. The format of a research proposal varies between fields, but most proposals should contain at least these elements:

There may be some variation in how the sections are named or divided, but the overall goals are always the same. This article takes you through a basic research proposal template and explains what you need to include in each part.

Continue reading: How to write a research proposal

Correlational research

A correlational research design measures a relationship between two variables without the researcher controlling either of them. It aims to find out whether there is either:

Positive correlationBoth variables change in the same directionAs height increases, weight also increases
Negative correlationThe variables change in opposite directionsAs coffee consumption increases, tiredness decreases
Zero correlationThere is no relationship between the variablesCoffee consumption is not correlated with height

Continue reading: Correlational research

How to write a hypothesis

A hypothesis is a statement that can be tested by scientific research. If you want to test a relationship between two or more things, you need to write hypotheses before you start your experiment or data collection.

Example hypothesis

Daily apple consumption leads to fewer doctor’s visits.

Continue reading: How to write a hypothesis

Research question examples

The research question is one of the most important parts of your research project, thesis or dissertation. It’s important to spend some time assessing and refining your question before you get started.

The exact form of your question will depend on on the length of your project, the type of research, the topic, and the research problem. But all research questions should be focused, specific, appropriately complex, and relevant to a social or scholarly issue.

Once you’ve read our guide on how to write a research question, use these examples to work out if your question is strong enough.

Continue reading: Research question examples