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Module 2: Research Design

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Module 1 Module 2 Module 3 Module 4 Module 5


Learning Objectives

This module is divided into two sections, Descriptive Studies and Experimental Studies

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • Explain how research is designed to gain new knowledge
  • Describe the role(s) of research support staff in enhancing research integrity


RecipeAccording to Trochim (2005), research design "provides the glue that holds the research project together. A design is used to structure the research, to show how all of the major parts of the research project work together to try to address the central research questions." The research design is like a recipe. Just as a recipe provides a list of ingredients and the instructions for preparing a dish, the research design provides the components and the plan for successfully carrying out the study. The research design is the "backbone" of the research protocol.

Research studies are designed in a particular way to increase the chances of collecting the information needed to answer a particular question. The information collected during research is only useful if the research design is sound and follows the research protocol. Carefully following the procedures and techniques outlined in the research protocol will increase the chance that the results of the research will be accurate and meaningful to others. Following the research protocol and thus the design of the study is also important because the results can then be reproduced by other researchers. The more often results are reproduced, the more likely it is that researchers and the public will accept these findings as true. Additionally, the research design must make clear the procedures used to ensure the protection of research subjects, whether human or animal, and to maintain the integrity of the information collected in the study.


HypothesisThere are many ways to design a study to test a hypothesis. The research design that is chosen depends on the type of hypothesis (e.g. Does X cause Y? or How can I describe X and Y? or What is the relationship between X and Y?), how much time and money the study will cost, and whether or not it is possible to find participants. The PI has considered each of these points when designing the study and writing the research protocol.

There are many kinds of research, however, most of them fall into two categories: descriptive and experimental.