Essay: Research design

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  • Published on: January 7, 2019
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A research design is a framework for the collection and analysis of data. It aims to provide a methodological structure to undertake research. The design of any research advises our selection of participants, method of data collection, site of research, how we process data, analyse it and format our results.
There are various types of research designs that can be carried out for a qualitative research study. The first kind is an experiment which can also be further divided into natural experiments, field experiments, and vignette studies. All three of them are referred to as quasi experiments meaning they share many but not all attributes of the classic experimental design. A field experiment is conducted in a real world setting where there is no random assignment of participants but manipulation of social settings. As people are unaware of being observed, their behaviour is unlikely to alter. But this type of experiment can only be used for certain types of research questions and the use of deception also proves to be an ethical concern. Vignette studies are more to do with taking note of people’s opinion regarding hypothetical scenarios. It requires a large number of participants and different scenarios are provided for different groups. The change in aspect of the story is what is considered the experimental manipulation in this kind of study.

Cross sectional studies are mainly based on interviews with selected groups during focused period of data collection. Here, information is collected at a single point in time. Whereas longitudinal studies are based on repeated measures as sample is taken at different time points to observe changes in trends. It can also be a cohort or panel study where certain groups are followed up. This type of study provides a time order of events and demonstrates causality but requires more time and money.

A comparative study comprehends phenomena by drawing a contrast between them in different contexts. It is based on complexity and comparability. It can either be used to compare two or more cases across different cultures or highlight differences and similarities between them.

Case studies are centred on case selection and involve intensive study of a single case. They can also be used to compare different cases. Cases can be of five types. Critical cases are grounded on a well-developed theory and hypotheses and subject is chosen to test it. Extreme or unique cases, as the name suggests, involve selection on the basis of being atypical. Typical cases, on the other hand, are selected for being representative of a particular category. In revelatory cases, the researcher observes and analyses a new phenomenon. Lastly, when cases are studied over time, they are called longitudinal cases.

A research design constructed more on a qualitative basis is ethnography. This type of study is closely linked to case studies but is differentiated due to the time and personal involvement of researchers. It primarily entails participant observation through interviews, attending events, visual recordings, documents and material. As the recording of reflections play a significant role in this study, field diaries are essential. Another research design particular to qualitative research is grounded theory. This type of study is built upon an inductive or bottom-up approach as it provides a means of generate theories from data.

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