Different Research Designs

Research Design in Exploratory Research Studies

Exploratory research studies, also known as formulative research studies, are conducted when there are very few or no earlier studies for reference. In this type of research design, a vague problem is chosen, which is followed by an exploratory research to find a new hypothesis. It lays emphasis on discovery of ideas and possible insights that help in identifying areas for future experimentation.


1) It provides information to form a more precise problem definition or hypothesis.

2) It establishes research priorities.

3) It gives the researcher a feel of the problem situation and familiarizes him with the problem.

4) It collects information about possible problems in carrying out the research using specific collection tools and specific techniques for analysis.

In exploratory studies, the following three methods are generally used:

1) Survey of relevant literature

2) Survey of experienced individuals

3) Analysis of selected examples

Survey of Relevant Literature

Published literature are very good sources for the purpose of hypothesis generation and problem definition. Much of the published and unpublished data is available through books, journals, newspapers, periodicals, government publications, individual research projects, and data collected by the trade associations. Some of it could be relevant to the given problem situation. An analysis of existing literature may not provide the solution to the research problem, but, it surely gives a direction to the research process.

Survey of Experienced Individuals

Talking to individuals who have expertise and ideas about the research subject can be very useful for the study. Attempt should be made to gather all possible information about the subject of research from people who have specific knowledge about it. In this case, the experimenter must prepare a systematic interview schedule to collect information from the respondents. The success of this survey depends upon the freedom of response given to the respondent, expertise and communication skills of the respondents, and the conversational skills of the experimenter in extracting maximum information from the respondents.

Analysis of Selected Examples

This method involves the selection of examples, which reflect the problem situation. A thorough analysis of the examples is conducted. In certain cases, such type of study helps in identifying the possible relationships that exist between the variables. The relationships, their extent, and direction are then measured using conclusive research designs.


Preparing the Research Design

Once the research problem has been identified, the next task for the researcher is preparing the research design. According to Russell Ackoff, “research design is the process of making decisions before a situation arises in which the decision has to be carried out.” It is the conceptual framework within which the research would be carried out. It is a key aspect as it binds the research project together. Its aim is to provide for the collection of relevant information with minimal expenditure of effort, time and money.

But, whether this can be achieved depends upon a large extent on the research purpose, which is classified into four categories: (i) Exploratory; (ii) Description; (iii) Diagnosis; and (iv) Experimentation. For an exploratory research study, a flexible research design is more appropriate as it provides ample scope for researching various aspects of a problem (E.g.Types of vehicles suitable for the Indian market. This topic provides extensive scope for writing). For a research paper, which requires an accurate description, the research design should be formulated in such a way that, it is unbiased and vouches for the reliability of the collected data and analyzed (E.g.: Percentage of small car segment in Indian market. This topic needs accurate facts and figures).

There are various kinds of research designs, such as, experimental (independent variable is manipulated) and non-experimental (independent variable is not manipulated) hypothesis-testing. Experimental designs can be further grouped into informal and formal. Informal experimental design normally uses a less sophisticated form of analysis. It includes: before and after without control design; after only with control design; before and after with control design. Formal experimental design offers relatively more control and uses precise statistical procedures for analysis. It includes: completely randomized design; randomized block design; Latin square design; and factorial designs.

Important factors to remember while preparing the research design:

  • Objectives of the research study;
  • Means of obtaining the information;
  • Tools for data collection;
  • Data analysis (qualitative and quantitative);
  • Time available for each stage of the research; and
  • Cost involved for the research.

A well-planned research design serves as a blueprint for the researcher even before he actually starts working on his research. This helps him to decide his course of action during various stages of the research, thus saving his time and resources.