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Research Design Process

By the term ‘research’, we can understand that it’s a collection of data that includes critical information by taking research methodologies into consideration. In other words, it is a collection of information or data that has been investigated using a hypothesis and has subsequently produced significant findings in a structured manner. Research can be conducted on both a scientific and academic basis. Let's start by defining what a research design is.

According to Smith, a design is a methodically arranged plan on how to carry out an experiment. The selection and arrangement of circumstances is referred to as the experiment's design. On the other hand Green and Tull assert that a research design is the specification of methods and procedures for acquiring the information needed. It is the overall operational pattern or framework of the project that stipulates what information is to be collected from which sources by what procedures.

The research design is a comprehensive articulation of a research problem. It refers to the general approach you decide to use to logically and cogently combine the various study components. It serves as a framework or guide for carrying out the study. In layman's terms, it is your overall plan for conducting research. A research design, then, is not just a plan of action but also a description of the kind of data needed to solve the research challenge. The design of a study identifies the type and subtype of the study, the research question, the hypotheses, the independent and dependent variables, the experimental design, and, if necessary, the means for gathering data and the strategy for statistical analysis. The study design will normally contain the methods to be utilised for data collection, the equipment to be used, how they will be used, and the expected methods for data analysis.

Importance of Research Design

The significance of research design is found in the fact that it specifies what must be done and how it must be done in order to accomplish the research objectives.

  • It provides the bare minimum of data necessary for organising the research project.

  • It is an articulation of what is anticipated of the research activity in terms of results and the analytical input necessary to transform data into research findings.

  • The actions that would need to be carried out in order to accomplish the research aim are clearly identified by the research design.

  • It gives the researcher a frame of reference and keeps the research from veering off course.

  • The research design aids in giving direction to the computation and interpretation process in order to generate solutions and suggestions.

  • By carefully planning out the research process, research design may help to cut back on the unnecessary expenses in terms of time, money, and effort.

  • Research design aids in creating an overview of the entire research process, which facilitates obtaining comments and evaluations from various subject-matter experts.

  • Planning the techniques of data collection and analysis in accordance with the study purpose is made easier by research design. Since it serves as the basis for all research, it is also accountable for producing credible research results. A research project's integrity might be harmed if the research design is not properly planned.

How to write a good research design

To write a good research design, it is crucial that all of the components of the research design should complement one another or work cohesively together. The aims and purposes of the research must align with the theoretical and conceptual framework. The technique for gathering data must also be compatible with the goals of the study, the theoretical and conceptual framework, and the method of data analysis. Below mentioned are a few key points that can be noted while constructing a research design.

  • The research design should be written objectively. Objectivity is the capacity of the research tools to provide results that are free from the observer's individual biases. A good study design should be able to choose just those instruments that offer unbiased results. Although it is often considered that preserving impartiality is rather simple, doing so might be challenging when doing research and data analysis.

  • Another key element of writing a successful research design is reliability. It examines the degree to which assessment outcomes are reliable and consistent. Your design must be trustworthy since it gauges the design's accuracy, and only then will you be able to get the intended results.

  • Along with reliability, another crucial quality of an effective research design is validity. Validity focuses on accuracy and talks about how effectively a test really measures what it was designed to assess.

  • Generalizability (External Validity) is another important prerequisite for a good research design. It is achieved by correctly identifying the population, carefully choosing the sample, correctly interpreting the statistical data, and methodologically preparing the data. If the findings of the research can be applied to a larger population than the one from which the sample was drawn, the research design is said to be generalizable.

There are more characteristics that a study design should have in addition to the ones mentioned above. These include efficiency, flexibility, and adaptability. A good study design has to be able to increase accuracy while reducing mistakes.

Process of Research Design

Step 1: Defining Research Problem

The first and most significant step in a study design process is defining the research problem. Simply said, defining a problem means that the researcher must establish some parameters within which the topic must be studied in order to achieve a certain goal. A research problem is a claim about a problem that needs to be solved, an issue that needs to be resolved, a challenge that needs to be overcome, or a question that needs to be answered and that has been raised in academic literature, theory, or practise. The research challenge is often presented as a question in various social science subjects. A research problem doesn't provide instructions on how to carry out a task, make an open-ended or general claim, or pose a moral dilemma.

It is impossible for the researcher to draw reliable conclusions without properly identifying the research problem. Researchers initially analyse the issues or opportunities before analysing the circumstances when defining a research problem. Making sure that the area of research interest is accurately portrayed is the goal of explaining the research problem. The following factors are important when choosing a study topic: (1) interest; (2) competence; (3) data accessibility; (4) relevance; and (5) ethics.

Step 2: Theoretical framework

Within the constraints of the fundamental bounding assumptions, theories are developed to explain, forecast, and comprehend occurrences as well as, frequently, to question and further our current understanding. The structure that a research study's hypothesis may be held or supported by is known as the theoretical framework. The theory that explains why the research problem under study arises is introduced and described in the theoretical framework.

A theoretical framework is made up of ideas, together with their definitions, and an existing theory or theories that are employed for your specific inquiry. The theoretical framework must show an awareness of ideas and concepts that are pertinent to the subject of your research paper and that connect it to other, more general areas of study in the course you are taking.

There aren't many references to the theoretical framework in the literature. For theories and analytical models that are related to the research subject you are studying, you must evaluate the readings from your course and relevant research literature. The suitability, practicality, and explanatory strength of a theory should be taken into consideration while choosing it.

The theoretical framework may be founded on a particular theory, in which case you would be required to evaluate the accuracy of an existing theory in light of certain occurrences, problems, or phenomena. This criteria applies to a lot of research publications in social science.

Step 3: Reviewing Literature

A literature review examines academic books, journals, and other sources that are pertinent to a certain problem, field of study, or theory, and by doing so offers a description, a synopsis, and a critical assessment of these works. The purpose of literature reviews is to show readers how your research fits into the greater body of knowledge and to give an overview of the sources you used to investigate a particular issue.

A literature review can simply be a summary of the most important sources, but it typically follows an organisational structure and includes summary and synthesis, frequently within predetermined conceptual frameworks. A synthesis is a reorganisation, or rearranging, of the material in a way that informs how you are preparing to examine a research topic. A summary is a review of the key information from the source.

It's crucial to think of knowledge in a particular topic as having three layers. What comes first is the core investigations that researchers carry out and publish. Second is the evaluations of such studies that give fresh interpretations based on and frequently going beyond the original findings. Third, there are the informal impressions, judgments, opinions, and interpretations that are made and end up in the field's lore. It is significant to note that when writing a literature review, this third layer of information is frequently stated as "true," despite the fact that it frequently only has a tenuous connection to the main research and secondary literature reviews.

Step 4: Setting research questions, objectives and hypothesis

A research topic is a specific question to which the study is trying to find an answer. It is at the centre of systematic study, and it aids in clearly outlining a course for the research procedure. In essence, it serves as the main research question and determines the speed of your work.

Research objectives outline the goals of your research and provide context for why you are conducting it. Objectives can be divided into two categories: primary and secondary. Because many research ideas are too broad, it is a good idea to reflect on your main research questions to make sure your study is appropriately constrained and manageable. You can come up with several secondary research questions by giving one or two major research questions priority. The proposal should also include your strategy for addressing the problems, including any empirical, theoretical, doctrinal, or other approaches you'll use. The specific goals of the research proposal should be outlined, including the issues and issues that will be looked at and why they are significant to explore.

A hypothesis outlines your predictions for the results of your investigation. It is a speculative solution to your research topic that hasn't been put to the test yet. Additionally, it must be testable so that you may use scientific research techniques to either confirm or deny it such as experiments, observations and statistical analysis of data.

Step 5: Choosing research study design

In order to decide which model to use for a study, a researcher needs to have a thorough understanding of the many research design types which are mentioned below :

  • A descriptive design cannot definitively determine why; nonetheless, it can assist in answering the questions of who, what, when, where, and how they relate to a specific research topic. In order to characterise "what existing" in terms of the variables or circumstances in a scenario, descriptive research is performed to gather data about the phenomenon's current state. Others can more easily comprehend the necessity for the research with the aid of descriptive design. You can carry out exploratory research if the problem statement is unclear.

  • Exploratory design is used when there are few or no prior studies with which to compare a research topic. Gaining knowledge and insights for future investigations is the main goal, or undertaking them when problems are still being investigated in their early stages. By outlining the concepts and formulating theories pertaining to the research study, it seeks to get a deeper knowledge of the issue. A variety of methods are employed in exploratory research investigations, including surveys, focus groups, case studies, and literature reviews. Exploratory research attempts to acquire information from people who are thought to be informed rather than placing a strong emphasis on sampling.

  • A case study is a detailed examination of a specific research issue as opposed to a broad statistical survey. It is frequently used to condense a vast area of inquiry into one or a small number of easily researchable instances. The case study research design is also helpful for evaluating the applicability of a given theory and model to events that occur in the real world. When not much is known about a phenomena, it is a beneficial design.

  • For purposes of causal designs, conditional statements of the type "If X, then Y" are used to explain a phenomenon. With the use of this kind of study, we may assess the effect that a certain modification will have on our preconceived notions and conventions. Most social scientists look for explanations that have a causal component and represent testing of hypotheses. When a phenomenon's variability, which is an independent variable, causes or, on average, results in a phenomenon's variability, which is the dependent variable, this is known as a causal effect.

  • Cohort design often involves participants from the same population that the subject or representative member belongs to and who are connected by some sort of characteristic. As opposed to studying statistical occurrence within the general population, a cohort study employs a quantitative framework to take note of statistical occurrence within a niche subgroup that is connected by the same or similar characteristics that are pertinent to the research problem being investigated. Cohort studies often use methods of observation to collect data within a qualitative framework.

Cohorts can be "open" or "closed," respectively.

Open Cohort Studies feature a cohort that is only characterised by the fact that they are enrolled in the research at hand. The research population's size is not consistent because each participant's date of admission and leave is unique. Researchers may only compute rate-based statistics, such as incidence rates and variations thereto, in open cohort studies.

Closed cohort studies involve participants who join the study at a single, defining moment in time, and it is assumed that no other research participants will join the cohort. Due to this, there are always the same number of participants in the research (or can only decrease).

  • Cross-sectional design has three distinctive features, it lacks a time dimension; it relies on pre-existing differences rather than changes brought about by interventions; and it chooses groups based on pre-existing differences rather than randomly assigning individuals to them. Only differences between or from a range of persons, subjects, or events can be measured using a cross-sectional design; change cannot be measured. As a result, scientists utilising this strategy are limited to taking a somewhat passive stance when drawing conclusions about causes from data.

  • Experimental design is a plan for conducting an experiment that gives the researcher complete control over all variables that can have an impact on the outcome. By doing this, the researcher aims to ascertain or forecast potential outcomes. It creates a connection between a situation's cause and consequence. It is a causal design where the effect of the independent variable on the dependent variable is observed. To track the effect on the dependent variable, the independent variables are changed. It is frequently used in social sciences to study two groups of people in order to observe human behaviour. To better understand social psychology, researchers can have individuals alter their behaviour while watching how those around them respond.

  • A longitudinal design produces repeated observations while tracking the same sample through time. It describes patterns of change and aids in determining the strength and scope of causal links. Every variable is measured over two or more different time periods. This enables the researcher to track the evolution of several variables across time. It is a kind of observational research and is occasionally called a panel study.

  • Observational design draws a comparison between individuals and a control group to reach a conclusion when the researcher has no control over the experiment. Observational designs can be divided into two categories. Direct observation is when people are aware of your presence. Indirect observation involves any technique for analysing behaviour where subjects are unaware that they are being watched. A valuable understanding of a phenomena is provided by an observational study, which also avoids the ethical and logistical challenges of organising a sizable and time-consuming research effort.

  • Explanatory design employs a researcher's views and reflections on a topic to further examine their theories. The study describes the what, how, and why of the research topics as well as hitherto undiscovered facets of the topic.

  • Correlational design is a non-experimental research technique. It aids in the establishment of a link between two variables that are closely related. When assessing the link between two more variables, no assumptions are made; instead, statistical analysis methods compute the relationship between the two variables. Two distinct groups are required for this kind of study. The correlation between two variables, whose values range from -1 to +1, is expressed as a correlation coefficient. A correlation coefficient that tends toward +1 implies a positive association between the variables, whereas a correlation value that tends toward -1 suggests a negative relationship.

Step 6: Sample Selection

The selection of the sample for the study is the following stage once the research design has been decided upon. The method by which participants are chosen to take part in an experiment is known as participant selection. A sampling unit is used to compile a list of possible subjects after the target population has been determined (sample). Sampling describes the procedure of choosing a sample. Sampling techniques come in two ways -

1. Probability sampling uses random selection, which enables you to draw robust statistical conclusions about the whole group.

1. Simple random sampling (one of the best probability sampling techniques)

2. Systematic sampling

3. Stratified random sampling

4.Cluster sampling

5.Multistage sampling

2. Non-probability sampling entails non-random selection based on convenience or other factors, making it simple to gather data.

1. Convenience sampling

2. Quota sampling

3. Judgement sampling

4. Snowball sampling

5. Consecutive sampling

Step 7: Data collection

A researcher requires data for all types of research. The researchers start gathering data as soon as it is determined what sort of information is needed to carry out the study. Both primary and secondary sources can be used to gather data.

Primary data is the term for information that has been acquired directly by the researcher. The major techniques under this are :

  • Questionnaire is a formal document with questions on it that are used to gather data from respondents on their attitudes, beliefs, behaviours, knowledge, etc. It may include brief multiple-choice questions with a closed-ended answer or lengthy open-ended questions.

  • Observation is the process of acquiring information by keeping an eye on people, things, or things themselves in their natural environment. It can be done overtly/directly (everyone is aware that they are being watched) or covertly/indirectly (no one knows they are being observed and the observer is concealed).

  • Interviews are used to get information from a select set of people on a wide variety of issues. Interviews can be conducted either formally or informally. With the same questions asked of each subject in the same order, and multiple choice responses, structured interviews are similar to questionnaires. There is no established list of acceptable responses for unstructured interviews because queries might vary by subject and may be influenced by responses to prior inquiries.

Secondary data are those that have already been gathered by another party. Below mentioned are some of the sources of obtaining secondary data :

  • Government publications

  • Previous research

  • Personal records

  • Service records

  • Client histories

  • Books

  • Journals

  • Websites

Step 8: Processing and analysing data

When discussing data analysis, topics including data reduction, reconstruction, analysis, and sample size calculation are covered. The methods used to code and organise the data that was obtained by the researcher must be described. The robustness of the data will be tested using a variety of methods, and it is important to make clear how relevant it is. The author should also provide the names of statisticians and the necessary software that will be used during data analysis, along with what they contributed to the data analysis and sample calculation. Data can be analysed in the following manner.

  1. Qualitative methods - includes rich descriptions of the data collected through various interviews, notes, transcripts, images and audios to help gain a better understanding.

  2. Quantitative methods - place a strong focus on precise measurements and numerical analysis of data gathered through surveys, polls, or other forms of data collection.

Step 9: Mention estimated time and financial requirements

This is among the most crucial elements in the research design process. Researchers employ a variety of techniques, including the Critical Path Method (CPM) and the Programme Evaluation Review Technique (PERT), to establish the strategy, control the process, and identify the resources needed. For a visual evaluation of the research process, a flowchart of these actions and their approximate times is developed. This chart may be used by the researcher to determine the order in which the various steps should be completed.


Bhat, A. (2022, October 12). Research Design: What it is, Elements & Types. QuestionPro. Retrieved October 17, 2022, from

Leverage Edu. (2021, November 17). Research Design: Definition, Types & Characteristics. Retrieved October 17, 2022, from

Solanki, K. (2022, February 3). Research Design | Definition, Features, Types, Process, Importance & Factors Affecting Research Design. Top4u. Retrieved October 17, 2022, from


The Article How to write a Research Proposal has been contributed by Diksha Jain and Peer Reviewed by Sanika Sharma. Diksha Jain is a proactive and self-motivated individual with a very keen interest in the field of psychology. Owing to the importance of mental health in today's times has helped her gain a vision of helping people thrive in their lives in its truest sense.

Sanika Sharma is a Psychology Graduate. She is an avid reader and a curious learner. She is inclined towards a holistic understanding of concepts and thus inclines towards interdisciplinary research.

They are a part of the Global Internship Research Program (GIRP). GIRP is an IJNGP initiative to encourage young adults across our globe to showcase their research skills in psychology and to present them in creative content expression.


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