Features of a Good Research Design

When a researcher has formulated a research problem, he/she has to focus on developing a good design for solving the problem. A good design is one that minimizes bias and maximizes the reliability of the data. It also yields maximum information, gives minimum experimental error, and provides different aspects of a single problem. A research design depends on the purpose and nature of the research problem. Thus, one single design cannot be used to solve all types of research problem, i.e., a particular design is suitable for a particular problem.

A research design usually consists of the following factors:

(i) The means of obtaining information;

(ii) The availability and skills of the researcher and his staff, if any;

(iii) The objective of the problem to be studied;

(iv) The nature of the problem; and

(v) The availability of time and money for the research work.

If a research study is an exploratory or formulative one, i.e., it focuses on discovery of ideas and insights, the research design should be flexible enough to consider different aspects of the study. Similarly, if the study focuses on accurate description or association between variables, the design should be accurate with minimum bias and maximum reliability. However, in practice, it is difficult to categorize a particular study into a particular group. A study can be categorized only on the basis of its primary function and accordingly, its design can be developed. Moreover, the above mentioned factors must be given due weightage while working on the details of the research design.

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Need for Research Design

Research design has a significant impact on the reliability of the results obtained. It thus acts as a firm foundation for the entire research. It is needed because it facilitates the smooth functioning of the various research operations. It makes the research as efficient as possible by giving maximum information with minimal expenditure of effort, time and money. For construction of a house, we need to have a proper blueprint prepared by an expert architect. Similarly, we need a proper research design or plan prior to data collection and analysis of our research project. Preparation of research design should be done carefully as even a minute error might ruin the purpose of the entire project. The design helps the researcher to organize his ideas, which helps to identify and correct his flaws, if any. In a good research design, all the components  with each other or go together with each other in a coherent manner. The theoretical and conceptual framework must  with the research goals and purposes. Likewise, the data collection strategy must fit with the research purposes, conceptual and theoretical framework and approach to data analysis.

The need for research design is as follows:

  • It reduces inaccuracy;
  • Helps to get maximum efficiency and reliability;
  • Eliminates bias and marginal errors;
  • Minimizes wastage of time;
  • Helpful for collecting research materials;
  • Helpful for testing of hypothesis;
  • Gives an idea regarding the type of resources required in terms of money, manpower,  time, and efforts;
  • Provides an overview to other experts;
  • Guides the research in the right direction.
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Necessity of Defining the Problem

The old adage, A problem well-defined is a problem half-solved, holds strong even today. Proper definition of a research problem is an important prerequisite for any research study. Often, the formulation of a problem holds more significance than its solution. The manner in which the problem is defined decides the direction for the entire research. The problem that has to be analyzed should be defined unambiguously, which will help to discriminate between the relevant and irrelevant data. A careful scrutiny of the research problem will help in working out the research design. This will ensure smooth coordination of all the consequential steps involved in the research. Lots of questions may arise during the course of the research: What data needs to be collected? What characteristics of that data are relevant and need to be studied? What relations have to be explored? What techniques have to be used for the purpose? The researcher can find answers to all these questions only if the problem has been properly defined. A proper definition of the problem helps to improve the overall efficiency and quality of the study. It is the foundation for further development of the research proposal. It enables the researcher to systematically point out as to why the proposed research should be undertaken and what can be achieved with the research findings. A carefully defined research problem ensures that the researcher does not stray from the research path that has to be followed.

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Selecting the Problem/Subject of Research

The undertaken research problem must be thoroughly selected. For this purpose, the help of a research guide can also be taken. However, since research problems cannot be usually borrowed, each and every researcher must therefore strive to find out his research problem for the study. While buying a new pair of spectacles, we need to cooperate with the optician along with our own preferences in deciding the power of lens. Similarly, a research guide can, at the most, only help the researcher to choose a subject. However, the following points can be observed by the researcher while selecting a research problem/subject:

i.  Generally, the subject, which is overdone, is avoided, as it will be a hard and complex task to throw any new light on such a case that has already been done. Controversial subject should not become the choice of an average researcher. Moreover, too narrow or too vague problems should be avoided.

ii.   The selected research subject should be practical and realistic, so that the related research material/sources are easily available within one’s reach. However, sometimes, even after this it remains still quite difficult to supply absolute ideas regarding how a researcher should acquire the necessary ideas for his research. Thus, for this purpose the researcher should definitely contact an expert or a professor, in the University, who is already occupied in a research. Besides, he may read articles on the subject published in literature and may also get the notions about how the techniques/ideas discussed therein might be functional in obtaining the solutions of other problems. Moreover, he may discuss what he has in his mind, concerning a problem, with others as well. By this way, he should be absolutely successful in selecting a problem by putting his best efforts.

iii.   Some of the other criteria, which must also be considered while selecting a problem, are: importance of the subject, qualifications and training of the researcher, costs involved, and the time factor. In other words, before selecting a problem, the researcher must ask himself the following questions:

  1. Is he well equipped, concerning his background, to conduct the research?
  2. Does the research/study come within the budget he can afford?
  3. Can the necessary cooperation be obtained from those who must participate in the research as subjects?

In case, the answers to all of the above mentioned questions are positive, one may become confident concerning the practicability of the study.

iv.  A preliminary study should most certainly precede the selection of a problem. However, this won’t be necessary regarding the problem needs the conduct of a research closely similar to the one, which has already been conducted. But, usually a brief feasibility study must be undertaken, when the field of inquiry is reasonably new and lacks the availability of a set of well developed techniques.

In conclusion, when the research subject is selected appropriately, by conforming to the above mentioned points, the research will, most probably, not be a boring drudgery. Rather, it will be exciting and educating. The selected subject/problem must involve the researcher and be the prime priority in his mind, so that he may give his best shot required for the study.

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The Research Process

Hypothesis Testing

Once the data analyzing process is complete, the researcher is ready to test the hypothesis, which was formulated earlier. Hypothesis testing involves systematic methods, which are used to evaluate the data and aid the decision-making process. Various statistical measures are used to test the data: parametric analysis (Ttest, ANOVA, Regression, etc.) and non-parametric analysis (ChiSquare, Kruskal Wallis, Mann“Whitney, etc.). These testing methods differ depending on the types of measurements and tools used for those measurements. One must choose the appropriate statistical method in order to obtain meaningful results. Based on the results of the calculations, hypothesis testing will result in either the hypothesis being accepted or rejected. The hypothesis is ruled out or modified if its predictions are incompatible with the experimental tests.

 

Generalizations and Interpretation

This is the final stage of the scientific research process. While testing, if the hypothesis is upheld several times, the researcher may form generalizations, i.e., build theories based on it. Generalizations give an indication of the actual achievement of the researcher. In case, the researcher had no hypothesis while starting the experiment he tries to explain his findings on the basis of some already established theory. This is known as interpretation. It is a process, which makes it easier to understand the factors that explain what was observed by the researcher during the course of his study. It also provides a theoretical conception, which serves as a guide. Interpretation may lead to new questions, thus leading to further researches.

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Execution of the Project

After the researcher has collected the data, the next step in the research process is the execution of the project (i.e., implementation phase of the project). This step is very important in the research process as it ensures that the research is being executed systematically and in time. If the execution of the research proceeds on correct lines, then the collected data would be adequate and dependable. If structured questionnaires are to be used for the survey, then data, i.e., both questions and the possible answers, may be machine-coded for easy and convenient usage. If interviewers are to collect data, then they should be accordingly selected, and proper training should be given to them. The researcher should ensure that the survey is under statistical control, i.e., the collected information is in agreement with the pre-defined standard of accuracy.

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Abstract writing style

     You should maintain certain writing standards while drafting your research paper. Your abstract should   be as brief as possible but quite meaningful. Here are some common writing styles for your abstract.

  • Your abstract should be a single paragraph, and concise
  • As a summary of work done, it is always written in past tense
  • An abstract should stand on its own, and not refer to any other part of the paper such as a figure or table
  • Focus on summarizing results – limit background information to a sentence or two, if absolutely necessary
  • What you report in an abstract must be consistent with what you reported in the paper
  • Corrrect spelling, clarity of sentences and phrases, and proper reporting of quantities (proper units, significant figures) are just as important in an abstract as they are anywhere else
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Writing an Abstract

Write your summary after the rest of the paper is completed. After all, how can you summarize something that is not yet written? Economy of words is important throughout any paper, but especially in an abstract. However, use complete sentences and do not sacrifice readability for brevity. You can keep it concise by wording sentences so that they serve more than one purpose. For example, “In order to learn the role of protein synthesis in early development of the sea urchin, newly fertilized embryos were pulse-labeled with tritiated leucine, to provide a time course of changes in synthetic rate, as measured by total counts per minute (cpm).” This sentence provides the overall question, methods, and type of analysis, all in one sentence. The writer can now go directly to summarizing the results.

Summarize the study, including the following elements in any abstract. Try to keep the first two items to no more than one sentence each.

  • Purpose of the study – hypothesis, overall question, objective
  • Model organism or system and brief description of the experiment
  • Results, including specific data – if the results are quantitative in nature, report quantitative data; results of any statistical analysis shoud be reported
  • Important conclusions or questions that follow from the experiment(s)
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Writing Research Papers

A research paper may contain original research results or reviews of existing results. In either case, you are documenting the results of your investigations on a selected topic. A research paper is your unique creation, based on your own thoughts and the facts and ideas you have gathered from a variety of sources. Writing a research paper needs the experience of assembling, interpreting, and documenting information along with developing and organizing ideas and conclusions. You might have investigated a topic deeply and might have spent months or years in obtaining novel results, but, unless you communicate your work clearly in your research paper, the readers will not be able to understand the intent of your hard work. The ability to accumulate, scrutinize and present large amounts of complex information in a summarized form is a skill that can bring you immense satisfaction as a researcher.

The intention of documenting a research paper is to let people study your work selectively. Here are certain tips that you can follow before you begin to jot down your hard work in your paper.

Rough draft

Before you begin writing anything, the most important thing to do is to outline your work. Pen down everything that is in your mind and keep adding to the draft until you think there is hardly anything left out. Include all the information that you feel is important and relevant. Once you are done with the rough draft, check for completeness and accuracy of facts. Your outlined work will give you a clear picture of what to include, what not to include, and how to arrange all the facts and figures in a proper format in your paper.

Title

The title is the first thing that readers will look at in any paper. The title of your research paper should be precise, informative and relevant with the study performed. In short, a title itself should give readers an idea about the research done.

Abstract

The abstract tells the reader about the intent and importance of your research. It is usually 250-300 words long. Your abstract will tell the readers of what you have done, how you did it, the results obtained and what it implies. It is an overall summary of your research work performed. A research paper begins with an abstract, but you should always write it after you have finished writing the entire paper.

Introduction

The introduction sets the stage for your analysis; therefore, it should be concise and definite. Describe the topic, and show how it fits into your field of study. Give a brief outline of the problem, describe its implications, its significance and justify the novelty of your study. State the objective of your study and describe the reasoning that led you to select them. Briefly discuss the experimental design and how it accomplished the stated objectives.

Literature Review

The literature review places your research in an appropriate framework.  It is a place to highlight relevant contributions associated with the study and to show how your contribution either fills the gaps or answers the unanswered questions. It may also create gaps in the knowledge of the readers by showing them that something they thought they knew is false. The theory part must focus on the logical reasons for why the readers should believe your hypothesis to be true.

Materials and Methods

This part must contain the details of the tools and procedures employed to fulfill the intent of your research. It must have enough information so that others can follow your procedure and can replicate it to hopefully come up with the same or additional findings and conclusions as you did.

Results

You need to include all the relevant descriptive and numeric data in the form of facts and figures to present a clear picture of your findings. Utmost care should be taken while labeling these facts and figures and including their references throughout the paper.

Discussion

In the discussion part, you can develop your arguments based upon your findings. The data may be self-explanatory; however, you will need to interpret how it validates your hypothesis, what falls outside of validity, how it impacts the literature you have cited, and the areas where further research is required. It also provides statistical, anecdotal, narrative, or descriptive evidences where and when required.

Conclusion

Summarize all the results in the conclusion part and explain very carefully and exactly what needs to be done next. It is likely that your conclusion will be uncertain.  However, a well-written conclusion will elucidate the next steps that need to be taken before the readers can be absolutely certain whether the research is complete or there is scope of further research on the same.

References

The most important element of any research paper is the references. Cite appropriate references where and when required, and verify the accuracy of your references before citing it.

Some Additional Tips

When you have finished writing the paper, take some time for yourself before you re-read it.

  • Make sure that your data and citations are accurate.
  • Reword your sentences for effectiveness of grammar, punctuation and composition.
  • Use a dictionary to check your spelling and use of words, or, run a spell check.
  • Read out the paper loudly to see how it flows and to correct any awkward sentences.

 

 

 

 

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