Research Design Classification | Research Design Methods

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Research Design Classification


Reasearch Design Methods After we could define our research problems clearly, the next step we will do is formulating research design. This step is ultimately important as research design actually will be our detail guideline in conducting research project. Research design contains all required procedures in gaining information needed to answer our problems. If research approach is research guideline in a brief, thus research design will be our procedures in detail form to answer research problems.

In general, there are two main forms of research design: exploratory research design and conclusive research design. Conclusive research design is familiar known as quantitative research approach, while exploratory is known as qualitative research.


A. Exploratory Research Design
Exploratory research design is mainly aimed to explore or to gain a new or deeper understanding about particular problem. It is inappropriate to examine correlation between observed variables, since the variables in exploratory research commonly have not yet been defined. And, in exploratory researchers usually use more flexible and using unstructured questions in the measurement tools.

When should we use exploratory research?
Researchers usually use this research design for several purposes:

  • To help define research problems more clearly
    Many companies sometimes want to research their products, but they have no idea what should be measured from their products. They still are unable to cover what problems inherit their products. However, to be able to get the best solution we must understand what problems we face, so that they need to conduct a qualitative research in order to figure out any problems they are facing now. They can hold a focus group discussion or in-depth interview with some customers to gain all information from their point of view.
  • To help identify all possible alternative answers.
    Assume that your company is facing two alternative decisions for your promotion and marketing programs. You need to decide whether the program will be focused on above the line or below the line events. To choose the right decision you may need to conduct interview with some experts or your respondents. From that activity you can gain any opinions to be considered for your decision.
  • To help researchers build a deeper hypothesis.
    Hypotheses are temporary allegation of the answer for research questions. A good hypothesis should consider various factors that affect on the observed variables. However, in fact we sometimes face a condition where the available theoretical framework is not enough to answer all the questions. As consequence, we need to conduct a prior exploratory research before doing the actual research to determine the factors that could be expected as the causes of certain event can happen.

Exploratory Research as A Qualitative Research
From the purposes of exploratory research as I have explained before, you might think that exploratory research design is no different with qualitative research. You are not wrong. When we are talking about the research design we use the term of exploratory research, but when we discuss research approach you can consider qualitative research to describe any attempts to explore something. We can consider them as the same method because both of they are aimed to explore a deeper understanding about particular material by using unstructured questions. In general, there are two procedures for collecting data in this research design, directly and indirectly. The direct method means that the researcher directly meets the respondents, letting the respondents know his/her identity as interviewer and collecting data from them. This direct method includes face-to-face interview and focus group discussion. Then, the indirect method is conducted by disguising your identity because if the respondents know that you are a researcher who are observing them, some of them may manipulate their answers.

B. Conclusive Research Design
In contrast with exploratory research design, conclusive research uses more formal and structured questions to test the correlation between variables or to test the truth from underpinning hypothesis. In conclusive research design we will be required to use some quantitative calculations.

When should we use conclusive research design?
There are two circumtances when researcher needs to use conclusive research:

  • As conclusive research is the best suit research design for research with many statistical equations and it can provide you a fix number about particular material, so that it is commonly used in helping you make a decision based on an absolute number, which in this setting we cannot use exploratory research design because it cannot provide you a fix number.
  • When your research is related to market study (such as to measure market share, market size, distributor available, and consumers’ profile), sales (e.g, a study to measure the effect of packaging on the consumers’ intention to buy), and to market test.

What are included in conclusive research designed?
Conclusive research design is divided to causal research and descriptive research.

1. Causal Research
It is used to prove that there is a relationship between observed variables. Commonly, there are two purposes of causal research. First, it helps researcher to figure out the nature of that relationship – which factor becomes the cause and the effect. Second, researcher can use this design to observe respondents even they who have never experienced the phenomena being researched by conducting an experiment. For more understanding you can read illustration below.

A manufacturer is intending to launch a new form of mosquito repellent products. This product has not been available in the market before. To test whether the new form will be preferred by consumers or not, the manufacturer tested through an experimentation. The cause variable (independent variable) is the new form of repellent. And, the effect variable (dependent variable) is the ease in use and the level of consumer complaints. Respondents were given samples of both the old products and the new form products to see how respondents response to the new one.

2. Descriptive Research
Descriptive research is a type of research design which main purpose is to describe phenomena. Basic assumption in this research design is the researchers have already figured out the problem, they are able to define the observed variables, and they can classify the population being measured. A researcher cannot describe Iphone based on the answers gained from a survey on respondents who have never known the Iphone.
Based on how data are collected from respondents, descriptive research is split to:

a. Cross-sectional research
It is a descriptive research design where data is taken only once in a given time. Data can be taken from a group of respondents (single cross-sectional design), and can also be taken from several different groups of respondent (multiple cross-sectional design).

b. Longitudinal research
In this design, data are captured during a certain time interval from the same group of respondents. This research aims to see whether there are changes in the behavior of the respondents for a period of time. For example, researchers want to know how consumer of an airline will behave during the holiday season.

The major limitation of longitudinal research is it is difficult to maintain the level of data consistency along the time interval because some factors may affect the respondents such as death, respondents were out of the deal, and the limited ability of the company to provide research facilities for long periods of time.

Cross-sectional research versus Longitudinal research
The table below presents you some relative advantages and disadvantages for both cross-sectional and longitudinal design. A plus (+) symbolize that the design has a comparative advantage compared to another one, and a minus (-) means it has comparative disadvantage.



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