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Research Methods in the Social Sciences


Before beginning your paper, you need to decide how you plan to design the study.

The research design refers to the overall strategy that you choose to integrate the different components of the study in a coherent and logical way, thereby, ensuring you will effectively address the research problem; it constitutes the blueprint for the collection, measurement, and analysis of data. Note that your research problem determines the type of design you can use, not the other way around!


Where to find Research Articles:

General Structure and Writing Style*

The function of a research design is to ensure that the evidence obtained enables you to effectively address the research problem as unambiguously as possible. In social sciences research, obtaining evidence relevant to the research problem generally entails specifying the type of evidence needed to test a theory, to evaluate a program, or to accurately describe a phenomenon. However, researchers can often begin their investigations far too early, before they have thought critically about about what information is required to answer the study's research questions. Without attending to these design issues beforehand, the conclusions drawn risk being weak and unconvincing and, consequently, will fail to adequate address the overall research problem.

 Given this, the length and complexity of research designs can vary considerably, but any sound design will do the following things:

  1. Identify the research problem clearly and justify its selection,
  2. Review previously published literature associated with the problem area,
  3. Clearly and explicitly specify hypotheses [i.e., research questions] central to the problem selected,
  4. Effectively describe the data which will be necessary for an adequate test of the hypotheses and explain how such data will be obtained, and
  5. Describe the methods of analysis which will be applied to the data in determining whether or not the hypotheses are true or false.