6 Design Steps

People who design research have to make six basic decisions.   They need to:

  1. Identify a research topic, then decide which part of that topic they will investigate, phrasing their choice as a research question.
  2. Choose a logical structure for their research.
    • Much research, for example, describes some state of affairs.
    • Other research correlates the existence of one fact or thing with other facts or things.
    • Still other research tries to identify the causal  relationships between two or more things.
  3. Determine what type of data they need in order to answer this research question.
  4. Identify a data-gathering method suitable for finding this particular type of data.
    • Interviews, for example, are good ways to get at people’s opinions in depth.  Surveys are not; they only collect relatively shallow views.  The two methods find different kinds of things.
    • Similarly, we as people to report their actions, but if we want to know what they really did, we have to observe them.  Each of these two data types requires a different method of gathering data, and thus a different research design.
  5. Choose a research site where they’ll find the data we need.
  6. Choose a method of data analysis that is appropriate for the data they have collected.
    • You can’t analyze interview data the same way you analyze demographic data.
      • The former are typically nuanced and complex; they call for qualitative data analysis.
      • The latter, on the other hand, usually consist of numbers: of people, houses, animals, and so on.  They call for quantitative analysis.

The distinction between qualitative and quantitative research is really a distinction between two kinds of data analysis.  It is important to the design process, but it is certainly not central to it.  Most textbooks forget this, so they organize things backwards.

This course puts things in their proper order, as the following graphic shows:

Revised Graphic, v2 no title