Research Design in Hypothesis-Testing Research Studies

In hypothesis-testing research studies, also known as experimental studies, the researcher generally tests the hypotheses of causal relationships among variables. Besides, such type of studies needs those kinds of procedures, which will not only reduce the bias and increase reliability, but will also approve the drawing inferences about causality. Hence, when we discuss about the research design in such studies, we usually mean the experimental designs.

Experimental designs were discovered and developed by Professor R. A. Fisher, who was working at the Rothamsted Experimental Station, at the Centre for Agricultural Research in England. In fact, the study of experimental designs originated in agricultural research. Professor Fisher divided the agricultural fields/plots into different blocks and conducted experiments in each of them. Consequently, whatever information was collected from this, he found them to be very reliable. In this way, he was inspired to develop certain experimental designs to test the hypotheses about scientific investigations. In recent time, the experimental designs are being used in researches related to phenomena of several disciplines. Besides, since experimental designs originated in the context of agricultural operations, we still use, although in a technical sense, several agricultural terms, such as, treatment, yield, plot, block, etc., in the experimental designs.


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.


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.

Research Design

A research design can be defined as the preparation of conditions, for the collection and analysis of data in such a manner, which aims at combining relevance to the research purpose with economy in procedure. In other words, the design arrangement of a research project is commonly known as the “research design”. Besides, the decisions like what, where, when, how, etc., in regard to a research study, creates a research design. In fact, the research design is the conceptual structure within which a research is conducted. Moreover, it comprises the outline for the collection, measurement and analysis of data. Hence, the design carries a blueprint of what the researcher will do, from composing the hypothesis and its operational implications to the final analysis of data. Overtly, the design decisions happen to be in respect of:

1)  What is the research?

2)  Where and why will the research be conducted?

3)  What data is required for the research?

4)  Where can be the data found?

5)  What will be the time period of the research?

6)  What will be the sample design?

7)  What methods will be used for data collection?

8)  How will be the data analysed?

9)  In which style will be the research report prepared?

Based on the above mentioned design decisions, the complete research design may be divided into the following parts:

(a)  Sample design: this deals with the technique of selecting items and thus requires careful observation for the given research study.

(b)  Observational design: this relates to the conditions under which the experiments are to be conducted.

(c)  Statistical design: this concerns the question of how many items are to be observed, and how are the collected data and information going to be analysed.

(d)  Operational design: this deals with the methods by which the procedures specified in the sample, observational and statistical designs can be conducted.

The essential characteristics of a research design are as the following.

(a)  It is a plan, which specifies the sources and types of data relevant to the research problem.

(b)  It is a strategy, which decides the approach that will be used to collect and analyse the data.

(c)  Since most of the research studies are conducted under these two controls, it also includes the time and cost budgets.

In short, the research design must contain the followings.

(i)  A clear and concise statement of the research problem,

(ii)  The population to be studied, and

(iii)  The various procedures, methods, and techniques to be used for collecting and analysing the data.


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.