How to create a research design

A research design (or research strategy) describes how you will approach the investigation for your dissertation. It constitutes part of your research proposal.

Before you can create a research design, you first need to formulate a problem statement, a main research question and sub-questions. So, first define the problem.

What does a research design look like?

A research design should present an overview of the means you will use to undertake your dissertation research. You should describe where and when you will conduct your research, the sample you will use, and the approach and methods you will employ. You can do this by answering the following questions:

Where?

At which location or situation will you conduct your investigation?

When?

At what point in time or in what period will the research take place?

Who or what?

Which individuals, groups or events will you examine (as your sample)?

How?

What research approaches and methods will you use to collect and analyze data?

Example of a research design

The starting point for your research design is your main research question (which is derived from your problem statement).

Example of a main question

What factors cause visitors to the Cool Blue online shop to ultimately make their purchase in a traditional store?

Answers to the questions

Where?
From the main question it is obvious that the research needs to be undertaken around the online Cool Blue shop and possibly a traditional store.

When?
Research will need to occur after a consumer has purchased a product in a traditional store. This is important, as you are investigating why someone follows this path (instead of buying the product online).

Who or what?
In this case, it’s clear that you must consider consumers who have made their purchase in a traditional store. However, you could also decide to examine consumers who did actually purchase something online, so you can compare the different consumers.

How?
This question is often harder to answer. Among other things, you may need to consider the amount of time you have to conduct your research and if you have a budget for collecting data.

In this example, both qualitative and quantitative research methods could be appropriate. Options could include interviews, surveys and observations.

More on research methodology

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Feasibility of the research

Always ask yourself: Is my research feasible?

In the example, you might choose to interview consumers as well as to conduct a survey. However, is this manageable in the time you have?

It’s important to discuss the feasibility of your research with your supervisor (and client, if appropriate). Sometimes what you want to do is really not the best option. The key is to keep it simple. If your research is lacking in some way, you can always decide to add a component – which will be much easier than omitting something if you realize you’ve been too ambitious.

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Bas Swaen

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8 comments

Gowri
August 21, 2017 at 5:56 AM

The article is rather simple and comprehensible. Though I did read a lot of articles on various websites about research design, I got a clear perspective only after I read yours. Hope you continue to write such useful articles on research.

Reply

Wouter
Wouter (Scribbr-team)
August 23, 2017 at 7:36 PM

Hi Gowri,
Thank you! I'm happy we were able to help you :).
Cheers,
Wouter

Reply

jay-ar
February 5, 2018 at 5:45 AM

your always welcome

Reply

Jewel
September 29, 2017 at 8:29 AM

is the research design and methodology one and the same?

Reply

Wouter
Wouter (Scribbr-team)
September 29, 2017 at 1:57 PM

Hi Jewel,
Not exactly. Methodology is part of the research design. It is included in the 'how' part of your research design.
Cheers,
Wouter

Reply

Rebecca caleb
October 12, 2017 at 1:18 PM

Is Research design same as research proposal?

Reply

Wouter
Wouter (Scribbr-team)
October 13, 2017 at 3:56 PM

Hi Rebecca,
A research design (or research strategy) describes how you will approach the investigation for your dissertation. It constitutes part of your research proposal.
Cheers,
Wouter

Reply

Viksha
October 18, 2017 at 2:54 PM

How I can draft a research design on the topic artificial intelligence as example

Reply

Jimi
Jimi (Scribbr-team)
October 20, 2017 at 12:13 PM

Hi Viksha, thank you for your question. Unfortunately, I cannot help you with the content of the research design, since I am not an expert in artificial intelligence. However, I believe that answering these questions will help you with creating your research design:
Where?
At which location or situation will you conduct your investigation?
When?
At what point in time or in what period will the research take place?
Who or what?
Which individuals, groups or events will you examine (as your sample)?
How?
What research approaches and methods will you use to collect and analyze data?

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