Research design: The methodical approach
When constructing a building, you first design its structure. Once, the structure is finalised, a comprehensive roadmap, which includes all the necessary actions from the first to last step taken to execute the construction plan efficiently, is prepared.
Similarly, in the case of a formal study, a methodology is developed before carrying out the research, pragmatically. A research methodology, which comes third in sequence of the components of a research study, is considered the backbone of any research. Though research methodology can be structured in several ways, this article focuses on the most used and widely-accepted pattern of research design.
There is enough literature available on the formation of research methodology in various means, but scholars conclude that the four sequential steps include selection of research philosophy, approach, technique and strategy.
How a researcher perceives the world whether subjective or objective is the first step towards designing a research methodology. The two major philosophies in existence in this regard are Positivism and Interpretivism. The former philosophical base deals with facts reflecting objective paradigm whereas the latter philosophical dimension talks about meanings under subjective phenomenon.
In a formal research, either of them is picked in accordance with the nature of the research subject. Followed by the selection of a research philosophy, at the second step, a research approach is chosen. Again, there are two, inductive and deductive approaches. The deductive approach is selected if the target is theory testing while in the case of theory building an inductive approach is opted for. However, depending upon the requirement of a study, either of the approaches is employed, but before taking a final decision the suitability of the deductive approach with Positivism and compatibility of the inductive approach with Interpretivism should be necessarily taken into account.
The selection of a research technique is made at the third stage of the design. In this relevance, there are two options such as quantitative and qualitative. The adoption of a research technique indicates the pattern of data analysis. The adoption of quantitative technique is done if the gathered data is sought to be examined statistically. In contrast, the qualitative technique is preferred if the acquired data is intended to be analysed descriptively. Generally, one of the techniques is employed, but in some cases amalgamation of both tactics can be practised if the treatment of obtained data is planned in both ways under the concept of triangulation.
After deciding on a research technique, the most important component (research strategy) of a research methodology is brought under discussion. This section of the methodology argues on the selection and justification of data collection methods.
There are a variety of methods that can be used, the most common of which are surveys, interviews, observation, experimentation, focus group, ethnography, etc. Before selecting either strategy, the characteristics of all the strategies are taken into consideration. For example, surveys are mainly positivist with some room for interpretation whereas interviews are strictly interpretivist.
Similarly, observation and focus groups have roots in Interpretivism while experiments are chiefly associated with Positivism.
These features are assessed so that the adoption of an opted strategy could fulfil the philosophical need of the projected study.
Whether a kind of strategy is chosen, a systematic research strategy is divided into many subsections such as setting, sample size, research instrument, data collection procedure, data presentation, and data analysis.
Commonly, a research design comprises these four chronological steps. However, it should not be confined to them and other elements including ethical consideration, limitations, and veracity of the study, which should also be discussed. Under the heading of ethical consideration, it should be ensured that a study does not involve any ethical issues and it has covered all the four areas of research ethics; consent, anonymity, confidentiality, and data storage. In the section of limitations, the factors which have impacted on the findings of research study without the will of a researcher should be added whereas veracity of a study should discuss validity, reliability, and generalisation.
The writer is an academic research consultant.