The research design is a comprehensive master plan of the research study to be undertaken, giving a general statement of the methods to be used. The function of a research design is to ensure that requisite data in accordance with the problem at hand is collected accurately and economically. Simply stated, it is the framework, a blueprint for the research study which guides the collection and analysis of data. The research design, depending upon the needs of the researcher may be a very detailed statement or only furnish the minimum information required for planning the research project. To be effective, a research design should furnish at least the following details.
a) A statement of objectives of the study or the research output.
b) A statement of the data inputs required on the basis of which the research problem is to be solved.
c) The methods of analysis which shall be used to treat and analyse the data inputs.
Let us try to understand the elements through an example:
A newly opened supermarket sells a broad line of merchandise ranging from provision to household appliances and kitchenware. The general manager (sales) believes that the total profits of the supermarket can be enhanced by getting people to buy in larger quantities which could be achieved by offering attractive cash discount on bigger purchases. As the other executives are doubtful about this. The hypothesis can be tested by carrying out a marketing research exercise. 1) The objective is to calculate the margin earned on sales when this discount is offered and compare it with the margin when discount is not being offered. 2) The data to be collected over a period of time
a) Sales in rupees to a selected sample of customers during the period when the discount is offered. b) Sales in rupees to the same customer when the discount is not being offered. c) The average order size in the two periods.
d) The average margins earned during the two periods.
e) The cost of promotional inputs regarding the discount.
3) The analysis of the data will be
a) Sales in rupees in period I minus those in period II.
b) Subtract cost of incentives.
c) Also subtract cost of promotional inputs.
The importance of research design lies in the fact that it makes a statement of what is to be done in order to achieve the research objectives and how it is to be done. It is an expression of what is expected of the research exercise in terms of results and the analytical input needed to convert data into research findings. The research design furnishes a clear idea as to the activities that would need to be undertaken in order to achieve the research objective. It is therefore, helpful if the research design after being finalised is put in writing to enable the researcher to have a frame of reference and prevent the study from deviating. At the stage of analysis and interpretation also, the research design helps in providing direction to the computation and interpretation process to arrive at solution and recommendations. This is however not to suggest that a design is a rigid straitjacket to which the study must always conform. The research design only represents an expectation of likely results but as the study proceeds, many unexpected results may come forth which may necessitate framing of new hypothesis or at least modifying some. The research design is only a guiding and not a limiting framework for research study.
3.3 CAUSALITY: THE BASIS OF CLASSIFICATION OF VARIOUS TYPES OF RESEARCH DESIGNS
There are four types of research designs which are broadly classified as:
1) Exploratory Designs
3) Quasi-Experimental Designs
4) Experimental Designs
These designs will be discussed in detail very shortly. However, one point may be noted that the...