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FUNDAMENTALS OF A RESEARCH DESIGN
- Meaning of research design
- Decisions are taken under research design
- Needs of research design
- Essentials of research design
- Importance of research design
- Concepts relating to research design
- Types of research design
- Features of a good research design
- Steps in research design
- Concepts of objectivity in a research design
- A need for objectivity in a research design
- Difficulties in objective research
- Sources of prejudices and biases
MEANING OF RESEARCH DESIGN
A research design is a “Blue Print” for collection, measurement, and analysis of data. It outlines how the research will be carried out. Researcher prepared the design of the research project, which is known as the ‘research design’. A research design helps to solve questions like what, when, where, how much, by what means etc. with regard to an inquiry or a research study. A research design is the arrangement of conditions for collection and analysis of data with aims to combine relevance to the research purpose with the economic procedure. It also means the conceptual structure within which research is conducted; it constitutes the blueprint for the collection, measurement, and analysis of data (Selltiz et al, 1962). Thus, research design provides an outline of what the researcher is going to do in terms of framing the hypothesis, its operational implications and the final data analysis.
DECISIONS TAKEN UNDER RESEARCH DESIGN
The research design highlights decisions which include:
- The nature of the study
- The purpose of the study
- The location where the study would be conducted
- The nature of data required
- From where the required data can be collected
- What time period the study would cover
- The type of sample design that would be used
- The techniques of data collection that would be used
- The methods of data analysis that would be adopted and
- The manner in which the report would be prepared
NEEDS OF RESEARCH DESIGN
- Research design facilitates the smooth conduct of the various stages of research.
- It contributes to making research as efficient as possible
- A research design helps to plan in advance
- Research design would help in pursuing the objectives of the research in the best possible manner, provided the available staff, time and money are given.
- Research design keeps avoiding any error that may disturb the entire project.
- Research design plays a crucial role in attaining the reliability of the results obtained, which forms the strong foundation of the entire process of the research work.
- The research design helps the researcher to organize their ideas in a proper form.
ESSENTIALS OF RESEARCH DESIGN
- Resign design should be a plan and time-based activity.
- It is based on research questions.
- It guides the selection of research sources and types of information related to research.
- It indicates a framework for specifying the relationship between the study’s variables
- Outlines procedures for every research activity
- It must be appropriate, efficient, adequate and economical
- It should be flexible
IMPORTANCE OF RESEARCH DESIGN
Research design provides the researcher with the opportunity to undertake various research operations smoothly. It makes research as efficient as possible generating maximum information with minimum effort, time and money. It is like blueprint which we need in advance to plan the methods to be adopted for collecting the relevant data and techniques to be used in its analysis for preparation of the research project. The researcher has to take all necessary precautions in preparation of the research design, as any error may upset the entire project. The reliability of result, which a researcher is looking, is directly related to research design which constitutes a firm foundation of the entire body of research work. The importance of Research Design may as follows:
- A plan that identifies the types and sources of information required for the research problem.
- A strategy that specifies the methods of data collection and analysis which would be adopted.
- It also specifies the time period of research and monetary budget involved in conducting the study, which comprises the two major constraints of undertaking any research
CONCEPTS RELATING TO RESEARCH DESIGN
- Dependent and Independent Variables
The phenomena that assume different values quantitatively even in decimal points are known as ‘continuous variables’. Values that can be expressed only in integer values are called ‘non-continuous variables’ or ‘discrete variables’. For example, age is a continuous variable, whereas the number of children is a non-continuous variable. When changes in one variable depend upon the changes in other variable or variables, it is known as a dependent or endogenous variable, and the variables that cause the changes in the dependent variable are known as the independent or explanatory or exogenous variables. For example, if demand depends upon price, then demand is a dependent variable, while the price is the independent variable.
- Extraneous Variables
The independent variables which are not directly linked with the purpose of the study but affect the dependent variables are called extraneous variables. Assume that a researcher wants to test the hypothesis regarding a relationship between children’s school performance and their self-confidence, in which this is an independent variable and the former, a dependent variable. In this context, intelligence may also influence school performance. Since it is not directly related to the purpose of the study undertaken by the 16 researchers, it would be known as an extraneous variable. The influence caused by the extraneous variable(s) on the dependent variable is theoretically called the ‘experimental error’. Therefore, a research study should always be framed. This is no scope of an extraneous variable in the research study.
Good research design has a good feature to minimize the effect of the extraneous variable(s). Technically, the term ‘control’ is used when a researcher design minimizes the effects of extraneous variables. The term ‘control’ is used in experimental research to reflect the restraint in experimental conditions.
- Confounded Relationship
The relationship between the extraneous variables and independent variables is said to be confounded when the dependent variable is not free from extraneous effects.
- Research Hypothesis
Hypothetical relationship tested by adopting scientific methods. It is known as the research hypothesis. The research hypothesis is a predictive statement which relates to a dependent variable and an independent variable. A research hypothesis must contain at least one dependent variable and one independent variable.
- Experimental and Non-experimental Hypothesis Testing Research
When research tests a hypothesis, it is known as hypothesis-testing research. Such research may be in the nature of experimental design or non-experimental design. The research in which the independent variable is manipulated is known as ‘experimental hypothesis-testing research’, whereas the research in which the independent variable is not manipulated is termed as ‘non-experimental hypothesis-testing research’.
- Experimental and Control Groups
When a group is exposed to usual conditions in experimental hypothesis-testing research, it is known as ‘control group’. When the group is exposed to the certain new or special condition, it is known as an ‘experimental group’.
Treatments mean the different conditions the experimental and control groups are working. If a research study attempts to examine through an experiment the comparative effect of three different types of fertilizers on the yield of rice crop, then the three types of fertilizers would be treated as the three treatments.
Experiment means the process of verifying the truth of a statistical hypothesis concerning a given research problem. For instance, an experiment may be conducted to examine the yield of a certain new variety of rice crop developed.
- Experimental Unit(s)
Experimental units refer to the pre-determined plots, characteristics or the blocks, to which different treatments are applied. It is worth mentioning here that such experimental units must be selected with great caution.
TYPES OF RESEARCH DESIGN
There are different types of research designs. They may be broadly categorized as:
- Exploratory Research Design
- Descriptive and Diagnostic Research Design
- Hypothesis-Testing Research Design
- Exploratory/Formulative Research Design
A research design formulates a research problem for an in-depth investigation & developing a working hypothesis from an operational phase. The major purpose of studies is the discovery of ideas and insights. Therefore, a research design suitable should be flexible enough to provide an opportunity for considering different dimensions of the problem under study.
- Descriptive and Diagnostic Research Design
A Descriptive Research Design is concerned with describing the characteristics of a particular individual or a group. Meanwhile, a diagnostic research design determines the frequency with which a variable occurs or its relationship with another variable.
- Hypothesis-Testing Research Design
The researcher tests the hypothesis with the help of a causal relationship between two or more variables. These studies require procedures that would not only decrease bias and enhance reliability, but also facilitate deriving inferences about the causality. Generally, experiments satisfy such requirements.
FEATURES OF A GOOD RESEARCH DESIGN
The following are the main features of good research design.
- Simplicity: It should be simple and understandable
- Economical: It must be economical. The technique selected must be cost-effective and less time-consuming
- Reliability: It should give the smallest experimental error. This should have a minimum bias and have the reliability of data collected and analyzed. Research design should minimize bias and maximizes the reliability of the data collected and analyzed is considered a good design.
- Workability: It must be workable. It should be pragmatic and practicable.
- Flexibility: It must be flexible enough to permit the consideration of many different aspects of a phenomenon. A good research design often possesses the qualities of being flexible, suitable, efficient and economical and so on.
- Accuracy: It must lead to accurate results. A research design does not allow even the smallest experimental error is said to be the best design for investigation.
- Generating Maximum Information: A research design that yields maximum information and provides an opportunity of viewing the various dimensions of a research problem is considered to be the most appropriate and efficient design. Thus, the question of a good design relates to the purpose or objective and nature of the research problem studied. While a research design may be good, it may not be equally suitable to all studies. In other words, it may be lacking in one aspect or the other in the case of some other research problems. Therefore, no single research design can be applied to all types of research problems.
STEPS IN A RESEARCH DESIGN
Stated in simple language, research design is a plan of action, a plan for collecting and analyzing data in an economic, efficient and relevant manner. Whatever be the nature of design, the following steps are generally followed.
- Selection and Definition of a problem:
The problem selected for study should be defined clearly in operational terms so that the researcher knows positively what facts he is looking for and the hat is relevant to the study.
- Source of Data:
Once the problem is selected it is the duty of the researcher to state clearly the various sources of information such as the library, personal documents, fieldwork, a particular residential group etc.
- Nature of Study:
The research design should be expressed in relation to the nature of the study to be undertaken. The choice of the statistical, experimental or comparative type of study should be made at this stage so that the following steps in planning may have relevance to the proposed problem.
- The object of Study:
Whether the design aims at theoretical understanding or presupposes a welfare notion must be explicit at this point. Stating the object of the study helps not only in the clarity of the design but also in a sincere response from the respondents.
- Social-Cultural Context:
The research design must be set in the social-cultural context. For example, in a study of the fertility rate in a people of „backward‟ class, the context of the so-called backward class of people and the conceptual reference must be made clear. Unless the meaning of the term is clearly defined there tends to be a large variation in the study because the term backward could have religious, economic and political connotations.
- Temporal context:
The geographical limit of the design should also be referred to at this stage that research related to be hypothesis is applicable to particular social group only.
It is physically impossible to analyze the data collected from a large universe. Hence the selection of an adequate and representative sample is a by-word in any research.
- The basis of Selection:
The mechanics of drawing a random, stratified, and purposive, double cluster or quota sample when followed carefully with producing a scientifically valid sample in an unbiased manner.
- The technique of Data Collection:
relevant to the study design a suitable technique has to be adopted for the collection of required data. The relative merit of observation, interview, and questionnaire, when studied together will help in the choice of suitable technique. Once the collecting of data is complete, analysis, coding, and presentation of the report naturally follow.
CONCEPTS OF OBJECTIVITY IN A RESEARCH DESIGN
A study in which the subject matter is the center of attention and prejudices are given no place is known objective study. Objectivity is scientific observation, collection, and analysis of data without prejudices and attachments. In an objective study, the subject matter is observed and described as it is without exaggeration or diminution. In an objective study, the investigator should use only his sense organs and brain and not feelings and beliefs. Even if his feelings may be against the results of an investigation, he should accept it if they have been achieved through the scientific procedure. Reasoning and intellect are most important than belief and faith in an objective study. It gives priority to fact as against fictions.
NEED OF OBJECTIVITY
Objectivity is a must in order to arrive at general and universal conclusions in a scientific study. The following points highlight the need for objectivity.
- To make research design scientific:
to make the research design scientific it is essential that questionnaires, schedules and statistical methods and metric scales are used.
- To make scientific conclusions:
Every research aims at scientific conclusions. Scientific conclusions are not influenced by imaginations, feelings, prejudices, and impressions etc. They are based on facts and reasoning.
- To achieve representative Facts:
In order to get representative samples from objectivity point of view, it is essential that the sample must be selected scientifically.
- For verification:
Verification is a necessary condition in a scientific study of the facts and conditions. The conclusions must be verified by repeated studies of the identical phenomenon through an identical method in identical circumstances. These repeated studies eliminate the elements of errors in conclusion so that they now assume the form of principle or law. Objectivity is a must for verification of the results.
- For the actual study of the phenomenon:
Objectivity is a must for actual study of the phenomenon. If the investigator has an objective attitude he may arrive at conclusions which may be universally accepted.
- In order to know the possibilities of fresh research:
The objective study shows new possibilities for research. The objective study aims at the discovery of unknown facts. It helps in finding out aspects which may be explored through independent research
DIFFICULTIES IN OBJECTIVE RESEARCH
The following are the main difficulties encountered in Objective Research
- The difficulty of detachment of the investigator: The biggest problem before the investigator is to keep him detached from the subject of study. These are impediments in keeping the research study objective and scientific.
- Influence of popular Notions: The current notions of the business may act as impediments in the objectivity of research study.
- The fallacy of particularity: An impediment in the objectivity of research studies is the fallacy of particularity. For example to say that the only one cause of indiscipline among workers is the union activism is to commit this fallacy since union activism is only one factor in indiscipline and it may not be applicable in the case of every worker.
- Confusion of General Knowledge with actual knowledge: An objective study aims at actual knowledge and not general knowledge. Sometimes an investigator confuses the general and current knowledge with real knowledge. This dependence over general knowledge is a serious impediment in the objectivity of the study.
- The possibility of contradictory prejudices: In order to decide over a managerial issue one may be either in favor or against it. This, however, makes the attitude prejudicial.
- Ethnocentrism: it means favoring of the race, caste group, society, community, religion, culture, language, and literature of which one are a member and follower. Thus ethnocentrism is a serious prejudice in one’s own favor and against others.
- External pressures: External pressures seriously interfere with the objectivity of research studies.
- Personal Interests of the investigator: If the interests of the investigator are in some way connected with the problem of study, there is no possibility of objectivity. If the collection and publication of the fact may harm his interests, the investigator will make all possible efforts to restrict their collection and publication.
- The absence of quick judgment: In some studies, there is an urgent need for quick judgment. However, in such situations, the judgment is hardly objective and becomes one of the impediment.
- Attitude and prejudices: The attitudes and prejudices are the most important impediments in the objectivity of the study. While there is no fear in adopting an objective attitude towards physical phenomenon, one has to face several types of fears in adopting an objective attitude in social studies. This fear may be due to the state, clan, the family or the group and is likely to create adverse influences, which are impediments in the objectivity of study.
SOURCES OF PREJUDICES AND BIASES
Following is the systematic list of biases likely to occur in research design;
- The bias of observer: While observing any phenomenon we are liable to concentrate on some facts and miss or ignore others due to our built-in value system, preconceptions, interest, and sentiments. But a good observer must see facts as they are and not as he wishes to see them. He must see all relevant details and suspend his personal judgment while he is observing.
- The bias of Informers: In design research, a researcher has to collect facts by making queries from people. They usually avoid answers which are likely to be controversial. Sometimes they supply wrong answers because they do not quite understand the question. In order to avoid these pitfalls, research must be able to approach his informers, tactfully, create confidence in them and make them realize the value of their cooperation.
- Bias due to Sample: A research can be meaningful and useful only if we choose a representative sample for investigation. A haphazard and careless choice of samples can seriously prejudice the cause of research.
- Defective Questionnaire: The quality of the answer is dependent upon the quality of questions. If questions are ambiguous and capable of being understood variously the answers will be indefinite and unreliable. Therefore while formulating a questionnaire; adequate care should be taken to include only unambiguous and clear questions.
- Defective Data Collection: The validity of research is determined by the validity and correctness of data collected. Only trained workers are capable of avoiding errors in the collection of data.
- Defective Analysis: After collection of data, appropriate analysis is the next requisite. Only if the analysis is proper there can be hope for valid conclusions. In this connection, special attention must be paid to the proper classification of data.
- Defective Generalization: Having analyzed the data, valid generalization becomes possible. Personal bias in any form can vitiate the conclusions; hence one must be completely objective in deriving conclusions from the facts before oneself.
- Sentiment Factors: While the research in physical sciences hardly produces any emotional reverberations in the scientists, the observer of social events is emotionally affected by them. By training, only such prejudices can be minimized.
- Common Sense Bias: Usually have a number of common sense notions regarding social facts, events, and process. These built-in notions in our mind many times prevent us from perceiving the scientific truth. Built-in prejudices in our mind close our minds to fresh ideas. By training of mind only it is possible to reject what does not fit in with its existing system of ideas.
- Bias Due to Attitude and Aptitudes: We see things in the light of our own point of view. We may very well miss what we do not want to see. A well-trained researcher keeps his judgment always suspended and even when certain findings are highly unpalatable to him personally he refuses to distort the facts.
- Time factors in Research: The general maxim that hurry makes worry and haste makes waste applies very much to research. If under the pressure of practical need or lack of time a researcher formulates his basic hypothesis in a hurry and does not devote adequate time to data collection, analysis etc, his conclusions will not be very reliable as the probability of errors in his source remains. As a matter of fact, undue hurry, as well as undue delay, is prejudicial to good research.
- Explain the following terms.
- Research Design
- Dependent and independent variables
- Extraneous variables
- Confounded relationship
- Research hypothesis
- Experimental and control group
- Experimental unit
- What is the research design? Explain its importance
- Explain the features of good research design and describe the steps of conducting a research design.
- What is objectivity? State its need in Research design
- Explain the difficulties of objective Research. How objectivity can be achieved in research design.
- Explain the sources of prejudice and bias in a research design