The 4 types of research design used by social scientists.
To come up with a good research output, a good research design is needed. Without a good research design, the researcher will find himself flooded with information which may not be appropriate in meeting his objectives.
Social research is aimed towards an understanding of social phenomena. Applying the appropriate research design in gathering the required data about people and their behavior is essential in understanding the complexities of human behavior.
Social research uses both quantitative and qualitative approaches; the former approach focuses on quantifying evidence and usually applies statistics in analyzing the data gathered to reveal generalities while the latter aims to achieve understanding through subjective analysis of subjects and emphasizes the context by which things happen. The number of subjects of social research scientists range from a multitude of people to individuals. Documents are also examined to strengthen the findings.
Hereunder are 4 different types of research design that social scientists employ to gather data in the field in a systematic manner to come up with sound, reliable results.
4 Types of Research Design
1. Experimental Research Design
An experiment is a research design where a certain degree of control over a given set of variables is exercised by the researcher when conducting an investigation. Experiments are used to test new hypothesis or existing theories with the end in view of confirming or refuting them. The experiment starts off with a problem statement, a hypothesis is formulated, then an experiment is carried out to find out if the hypothesis is correct or not. The results are analyzed using statistics that form the basis in coming up with a conclusion. When many experiments have already been done getting the same results, a theory may be formed which are then conveyed through publication of findings.
For example, an experiment is carried out to find out which amount of a toxin will cause symptoms to experimental animals referred to generally as “guinea pigs.” Experimentation need not be done only in laboratories.
2. Case Study Research Design
A case study is a research design that focuses on a single case rather than dealing with a sample of a large population. For example, a careful determination of the factors that led to the success or failure of a community project may be conducted.
3. Longitudinal Research Design
A longitudinal research design involves collection of data over a period of time. This is further subdivided into three types namely trend study, cohort study, and panel study.
a. Trend study
A trend study is a type of longitudinal research design that looks into the dynamics of a particular characteristic of the population over time. For example, a researcher might want to study the people’s preference for projects, whether government or non-government, in their community. Respondents of the study vary across study periods.
b. Cohort study
A cohort study is a type of longitudinal research design where a cohort is tracked over extended periods of time. A cohort is a group of individuals who have shared a particular time together during a particular time span, for example, a group of indigenous peoples living in the forest for decades.
c. Panel study
A panel study is a type of longitudinal research design that involves collection of data from a panel, or the same set of people over several points in time by measuring specific dependent variable identified by the researcher to achieve a study objective. From the data gathered, it is possible to predict cause-effect relationship after a given time. Panel study is usually done when it is difficult to analyze a case-study which is only a one-shot deal. People’s shifting attitudes and behavior can be detected. For example, cause-effect relationship may be investigated between the number of faculty research outputs and the amount of time given for research as work load over three years.
4. Cross-sectional Research Design
A cross-sectional research design is a common research design used by social scientists. It gathers data from a cross-section of a population. For example, a contingent valuation study asks a sample of a population regarding their willingness-to-pay to preserve a given forest ecosystem accessible to them.
Choosing the correct research design will enable the researcher to gain a better understanding of social phenomena. Thus, familiarity with these different research designs is a requisite for a well-guided research study.
©Patrick A. Regoniel 4 December 2010 4 Types of Social Research Design