Decisions regarding what, where, when, how much, by what means concerning an inquiry or a research study constitute a research design. ―A research design is the arrangement of conditions for collection and analysis of data in a manner that aims to combine relevance to the research purpose with economy in procedure.‖ In fact, the research design is the conceptual structure within which research is conducted; it constitutes the blueprint for the collection, measurement and analysis of data. As such the design includes an outline of what the researcher will do from writing the hypothesis and its operational implications to the final analysis of data.
The research design can be split into the following parts:
- The sampling design which deals with the method of selecting items to be observed for the given study;
- The observational design which relates to the conditions under which the observations are to be made;
- The statistical design which concerns with the question of how many items are to be observed and how the information and data gathered are to be analysed; and
- The operational design which deals with the techniques by which the procedures specified in the sampling, statistical and observational designs can be carried out.
The important features of a research design are such that:
- It is a plan that specifies the sources and types of information relevant to the research problem.
- It is a strategy specifying which approach will be used for gathering and analysing the data.
- It also includes the time and cost budgets since most studies are done under these two constraints.
In brief, research design must, at least, contain-
- A clear statement of the research problem;
- Procedures and techniques to be used for gathering information;
- The population to be studied; and
- Methods to be used in processing and analysing data.
Research design is needed because it facilitates the smooth sailing of the various research operations, thereby making research as efficient as possible yielding maximal information with minimal expenditure of effort, time and money. Research design stands for advance planning of the methods to be adopted for collecting the relevant data and the techniques to be used in their analysis, keeping in view the objective of the research and the availability of staff, time and money. Preparation of the research design should be done with great care as any error in it may upset the entire project. Research design, in fact, has a great bearing on the reliability of the
results arrived at and as such constitutes the firm foundation of the entire edifice of the research work. Even then the need for a well thought out research design is at times not realised by many.
The importance which this problem deserves is not given to it. As a result many researches do not serve the purpose for which they are undertaken. In fact, they may even give misleading conclusions. Thoughtlessness in designing the research project may result in rendering the research exercise futile. It is, therefore, imperative that an efficient and appropriate design must be prepared before starting research operations. The design helps the researcher to organize his ideas in a form whereby it will be possible for him to look for flaws and inadequacies. Such a design can even be given to others for their comments and critical evaluation. In the absence of
such a course of action, it will be difficult for the critic to provide a comprehensive review of the proposed study.