A research design is a blueprint describing how to conduct a research project. It is a plan describing which estimates are to be computed, how they are to be computed and how models are to be tested and refined. A good research design is one that identifies all the things that need to be estimated and works out the best way to measure them.
There is no standard way to design a study, but the following is a hopefully useful guideline:
- Prepare a list of everything that needs to be estimated. Such a list is sometimes referred to as the project's Information Needs.
- Develop relevant models. Commonly, one or more of three types of models is useful when designing research:
- Work through all the details about how to collect the data. These are discussed in the section on Data Collection.
- Create an Analysis Plan, which is a list of all the intended analyses that the study will need to address. For example, if the purpose of the study is to work out how if a new product will be successful then the analysis plan will indicate which analyses will be conducted to answer this question (See Advanced Questions and Questionnaires, Basic Data Analysis, Advanced Data Analysis and Reporting for discussions of various types of analyses).
Although this is good practice, it is fair to say steps 2 and 4 happen quite rarely in practice (and, moreover, as a fairly general rule when studies fail to be useful it is because of not addressing points 2 and 4).