Research Design

The point of research design is to put your strategies into action and to enable you to find answers to the questions you have raised. It is important, when designing your research, to ensure that you choose a method that is appropriate, achievable and manageable. 

This section should include the rationale for your choice of methodology, data collection and analysis. Discuss alternatives that may have been used in related studies and why you didn’t use them. So, for example, if you have chosen to use questionnaires, why? Justify the sampling and data analysis techniques that you have used. If possible cite a relevant study which used similar techniques.  


 You should think about the following:

  • What is your research philosophy, e.g. positivist or interpretivist?
  • Which research methods are you going to use and why? 
  • When and how will you collect your data and on how many occasions? 
  • Who or what is the subject or your research and how will you select them?
  • How will you analyse your data?
  • How does you research fulfil your aims and objectives?
  • How does your research design fit with the existing literature?
  • Have you planned a schedule? You must make time for seeing your tutor, reading, writing up etc. 
  • Have you got enough money to cover potential expenses?
  • What are the limitations of your methodology?


Work through the following sections to develop your research design and identify the most appropriate research methods for your research. These sections contain brief descriptions designed to allow you to select the most appropriate method(s). Once you have made your selection, you must consult research methods texts for more in-depth information.  See the further reading section for suggestions.

Pilot Study

Once you have determined which research methods, data collection, sampling and data analysis methods are appropriate, it is usually a good idea to undertake a pilot study, i.e., test your methods on a small sample. This will identify any weaknesses in your methodology, e.g. test your questionnaire on a small group. The responses will give you an insight into the quality or relevance of the questions. As a result you may choose to change the form or content of some of the questions. 

If, as a result of the pilot study, you choose to make any changes, you cannot use the results of the pilot study as part of your subsequent research. You should also use a different sample from the one you used in the pilot study, when you start your research for real. So, be careful not to use too large a proportion of your original sample for your pilot. 

Bear in mind that you will need to allow additional time in your schedule for conducting a pilot.