Academic Master

Business and Finance, Design

the key elements of research design and associated challenges for qualitative research

The theoretical structure within which the research will be conducted is known as the research design. The research design should include information related to the topic, significance, beneficiaries, and place of the research. With a good research design, it is possible to reduce bias and increase the ability of the data to be composed and investigated (Noble and Smith, 2015).

The design that provides the minimum experimental error is described to be the best design in the scientific search. This paper will discuss the key elements of research design as well as associated challenges for qualitative research.

The key elements of research design include a perfect declaration of research problem procedures and techniques to be used for collecting information, a method to be applied for treating and examining the data, the aim behind the study (descriptive or casual), types of investigation (observational or survey), researcher interference (minimal or manipulative), study setting (research environment), time limit (cross-sectional or longitudinal) as well as a unit of analysis. A good research design must start with the perfect declaration of the research problem. It should provide the reader with the history and importance of the problem as well as its current scenario.

A key element of research design is also the aim of the study. This can be descriptive, exploratory, and analytical, as well as case study analysis. A descriptive study is related to the description of features of the variables of interest. The objective of the descriptive study is to provide information regarding the prevalent facts related to the topic. The main advantage of this research is that it allows exploring further ideas. For instance, an exploratory study can be used to gather information regarding the competitors. An exploratory study is conducted when there is not much known about the topic and no past study also effectively addresses the topic. This takes into account a wide range of extensive preliminary work. For example, exploratory research can be conducted on the topic of “quality of life.” The purpose of the analytical study is to test the hypothesis. This is mostly used to explain the nature of certain relationships. It describes the interdependence of two or more factors in a given situation. For example, the analytical study can be used to describe the association between advertising and increased sales. Moreover, case study analysis is used to analyze a given topic in depth. Case studies are not recommended to be used as a problem-solving technique as it is not possible to always have the same problem in any other organization. The reason for a case study is to study powerfully one position of something as dissimilar intact. However, if case studies under investigation are qualitative, then these are valuable in smearing clarifications to current problems founded on past problem-solving involvements. However, case studies do not unavoidably employ qualitative data only. These are also valuable for making further theories for experiential analysis. These should not be used only as another evaluation design appears to work. These serve as a useful evaluation tool when the project absorbs the implementation of an accessible program in a new situation.

Furthermore, the types of investigation can be correlational or causal. In a causal investigation, it is essential to find a definite cause-and-effect relationship. It is usually adopted when the aim is to explain more than one factor that is causing problems. For instance, the role of smoking in causing cancer can be analyzed with the use of causal investigation. A correlation study is carried out when there is only a need for the identification of different factors, and no detailed study is required. Researcher interference can be minimal, or it can be manipulative. This depends on whether the study is causal or correlational. In a correlational study, the researcher purposely alternates certain variables and impedes the proceedings as they usually happen in the organization.

In the context of study settings, natural settings are used for correlational studies. For cause and effect studies, lab settings are used. The unit of analysis in a research design refers to a population of studies. This includes individuals, groups, organizations, industries, and countries. For example, if there is research conducted to know the individual performance of employees after certain training, then here, a unit of analysis will be individuals if this performance is to be checked at the production as well as sales department level. Then, here, the unit of analysis will be grouped. This can also be at the industry level when an investigation is carried out to analyze the percentage of the workforce working in care, and then the unit of analysis is an industry (Khankeh et al., 2015). The time horizon can be cross-sectional, or it can be longitudinal studies. Longitudinal studies refer to those that are conducted at more than one point in time. For example, the performance of employees before and after training can be assessed using longitudinal studies.

Research can be carried out quantitatively as well as qualitatively. These approaches fluctuate in the amount of the researcher’s interest regarding the empirical appointment, direct association with the subjects, and physical participation in the situation. If a researcher is using them as a qualitative research design, then it may face certain challenges associated with this approach. However, it cannot be concluded that qualitative research design should not be used as there are many situations where the requirement is to use the qualitative research design or it best serves the purpose. Qualitative research refers to the systematic subjective method that can be used for the description of events in qualitative terms. Its main goals are to understand the topic and explore it in depth (Taylor et al., 2015). Case studies are frequently understood as major examples of qualitative research involving the explanatory data study method.

After the establishment of research questions, the next crucial decision is on the assortment of suitable methods along with the selection of research design. Then, succeeding planning would be on the correct technique of data collection, the number of part-takers, and a research setting based on methodology and the research question. Sometimes, it gets difficult for researchers and students to understand that using a qualitative method is only the first phase in selecting a suitable research methodology.

The qualitative research design is based on a social constructivism perspective. For example, these can be used to improve the understanding of health-related phenomena (Fleurence et al., 2014). Here, it involves systematically collecting, organizing, and clarifying material in a documented form derived from conversations or observations. Researchers start the expedition for the new hypothesis in health, which should concede that the suitability of qualitative research obtains from the nature of the social incident to be discovered. A context-specific perspective provides knowledge in qualitative research. Data analysis, ethical concerns, and inflexible methods of findings are some of the concerns of Qualitative research design while working on health-related phenomena. This design lacks the ability to equip researchers with a set of procedures to be followed; rather, it depends on the control of words and images. It does not offer results in the form of numbers and equations, but it displays results regarding meaning and understanding.

In this design, the research problems turn into research questions founded on previous research practice. In this study, the chosen sample sizes can be as small. The data collection methods can be conducting the interview or having the director’s non-participant observe. There is also the use of field notes as well as journals and logs. The main challenges that a researcher faces while doing qualitative research are the identification of the problem and the formation of the research question. There is also the requirement of selecting an appropriate methodology while conducting qualitative research (Ritchie et al., 2013). These are challenges that any researcher faces during the initial stages of any research project. These problems are principally common for beginners. Identification of research problems is a major issue in qualitative research. It is the topic that the researcher wants to take into account while conducting research. This is the main reason why the researcher is engaged in the investigation.

Identification of the problem is essential as it is like a lens that will be used to look at the reality of the phenomenon under study. But interestingly, here, the topic is mostly one with which the researcher is already familiar. The difficulty at this stage comes from the fact that the researcher has to start his investigation at this point using his personal experience. Significant time and energy are consumed by the researcher, so the problem must be identified clearly. One solution to this can be to narrow down the problem with the aim of clarifying the topic of the research. For this purpose, research questions can be used for the formation of the research problem. There can be more than one research question. It is also observed that researchers do not first decide on the use of specific research designs. However, they propose questionnaires, or they start interviewing far too early to answer their research questions. However, in this case, conclusions drawn will usually be feeble and unpersuasive and will be unsuccessful in answering the research question. This also makes them change their research questions or approach during their research design. This practice is taken by novice researchers, and their research questions are very wide, uncertain, and fuzzy. Research questions should be trustworthy, and the research method should be trustworthy.

The research design and methodology must be sufficient to deal with the chosen topics and the research question. Researchers have to recognize, explain, and rationalise the methodology they decide, in addition to the selection of strategies and measures implicated. Consequently, it is essential to discover the correct technique for the research question. It should be noted that some of the particulars of a qualitative research task cannot be determined in advance and may perhaps be decided as they happen throughout the research process. The problem of distorted differences between qualitative approaches requires consistency and coherence, known as method-slurring. This is the trouble of disfiguring differences between qualitative methods. Each method has to reveal its steadiness to its basics and will mirror them in data collection, examination, and acquaintance assert.

Good research questions must have these characteristics as they must be specific, inferring the problem or phenomenon; they must also reflect the interference in experimental research and identify the target group of participants. Thus, the main aim behind the identification of the research problem is to explore and understand the phenomenon. Moreover, the researcher should take care that he/she bestows somber deliberation on the selected region as the foundation of research and that a qualitative scheme is pertinent and probable. Consequently, forming the research question in a good mode and choosing a suitable methodology can ensure innovative, attractive, and applied facts.


Fleurence, R.L., Beal, A.C., Sheridan, S.E., Johnson, L.B. and Selby, J.V., 2014. Patient-powered research networks aim to improve patient care and health research. Health Affairs33(7), pp.1212-1219.

Khankeh, H., Ranjbar, M., Khorasani-Zavareh, D., Zargham-Boroujeni, A. and Johansson, E., 2015. Challenges in conducting qualitative research in health: A conceptual paper. Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research, 20(6), p.635.

Noble, H. and Smith, J., 2015. Issues of validity and reliability in qualitative research. Evidence-Based Nursing, pp.ebnurs-2015.

Ritchie, J., Lewis, J., Nicholls, C.M. and Ormston, R. eds., 2013. Qualitative research practice: A guide for social science students and researchers. Sage.

Taylor, S.J., Bogdan, R. and DeVault, M., 2015. Introduction to qualitative research methods: A guidebook and resource. John Wiley & Sons.



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