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Research papers are common assignments especial in universities and colleges. Students have to write them every semester and they carry a lot of weight. They require excellent writing and analytical skills. The student has to dissect and research on different topics that make a research paper. More so, they are supposed to be written according to the instructions provided. What’s more, research paper must have different sections, all of which play different roles to ensure the student achieves the set target.

Within the research paper is the research design and research methods. Many students have confused these two aspects as the same, and they end up writing the wrong thing. As such, we are going to dwell on the research design and research method difference to ensure you get good understanding of whatever they mean as well as what you are supposed to o in each one of them.

The distinction between research design and research methods is something you ought to know even before you start the research paper. Luckily for you, the professors take their time to teach about the. However, not every student gets the difference and as such, we have to ensure these clocks in your mind clearly.

Research design

Research design refers to the general structure of the of the research project. For instance if you are building a store you need to have a clear idea of what kind of a store you want to build. You cannot start the building project without knowing this. If you proceed with a research study without a proper design, you are bound to fail. As a student, you have to ensure that you have a clean understanding because for one, you want this research paper to earn you good marks.

The research design gives you the idea of “how” to conduct he research sing a particular methodology. In research, you must have research questions that have to be addressed and this requires a research design. This design is used to explain the type of research and its subtype. A research can be correlational, semi-experimental o a review. The sub-type o the other hand can be experimental design, research problem, and descriptive case study.

Research design sections

The major sections of a research design include the:

image 02 research design sections

The type of the problem you are investigating will determine the research design that you are going to use an not the other way round. Variables, designated tools of information gathering, these tools will be used for data collection and analysis as wel as other factors are determined in the research design. This has to anchor on a research technique that you choose. A god research design ought to create minimum bias in data and increase the trust on the collected and analyzed research information. To term your research design as the best, it should produce the least margin of error in experimental research.

Elements of research design

The crucial elements of research design include:

image 03 elements of research design

Characteristics of a research design

As we explore the distinction between research design and research methods, these are the characteristics of a research design that you need to know about:


Every research design should have results that are unbiased and neutral. You have to understand the opinions concerning the final evaluated scores and conclusions for multiple individual as well as considering those who agree with the derived outcomes.


Conducting regular research means the researcher has to calculate similar results every time. As such, the research design ought to indicate how the research questions will be formulated to ensure the standards of he obtained results. This happens only when you have a reliable research design.


Research design measuring tools are many but the valid ones help a researcher to gauge the results based on the objectives on the research. This makes the research design questions valid.


The outcome of the research must be applicable to a larger population as opposed to a restricted sample. As such, generalization becomes a crucial research design characteristic.

By now, you understand the research design and research method difference, and now it’s time to look at diverse research design types.

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Types of research designs

They include the following:

image 04 Qualitative research design

This is applied when a relationship between collected data and observation is established anchoring on mathematical calculations. They mathematical calculations are used to prove or disprove maturity existing phenomenon or theories. Qualitative research design is used when the researchers are trying to conclude “why” a specific theory exits as well as “what” the respondents say about it

image 05 Quantitative research design

If the researcher wants to have statistical conclusions and collect actionable insights, then he can use the quantitative research design. It gives a better perspective through numbers as one tries to make important decisions. This research design is more applicable especially if an organization is looking forward to grow based on numbers and analysis necessary for their business.

Other research design subdivisions include:

image 06 Descriptive research design

In this case, you are only interested in describing the situation under investigation. This research design anchors on a theory created by gathering, analyzing and presenting the data. In other words, you are proving the how and why of the research.

image 07 Experimental design

This one is used to establish the relationship between cause and effect of a situation. The effect is cause by the independent variable. This design contributes to soling a given problem.

image 08 Correlational design

This helps the researchers to establish a relationship between two closely connected variables

image 09 Diagnostic research design

The researcher gravitates more towards the evaluation of the root cause of a specific topic. He or she has to evaluate the elements that contribute to the troublesome situation.

image 10 Explanatory research design

In this research design, your case and thoughts are important and primarily depend on your personal preference on a particular topic.

Research methods

The distinction between research design and research methods is evident in that these methods are all about the various research processes, procedures and tools used to gather research information and he various ways of analyzing them. With research methods, it is easy to classify a research problem in two categories namely qualitative and quantitative research. Either of these can be used and some cases may require you to combine them. The research methods that you choose anchors on your research questions to the problem and research design. This is what makes a major research design and research method difference.

Remember that in a research, you are providing new information or knowledge to deepen the existing understanding of a given field. You can do it through:

image 11 research methods
image 12 interviews

This is among the commonly used research methods to get qualitative information about the experiences of respondents as well as their feelings. It is a guided conversation between the researcher and the respondent from whom you want to learn something. The level and structure of the interview can vary but in most cases, the semi-structured format is commonly used. The interviewer is always free to take different paths of conversations emerging during the interview. The interviewer can also prompt the respondent to expound on certain aspects.

However, interviews are not the best approach when you want to get information from a large group of respondents. They are time consuming and as such, you need to be keen on selecting the informants with the necessary knowledge and experiences that align with the questions.

image 13 observations

This research method is a straightforward way for the researcher to know what people do under specific situations. Watching them in such situation would provide god data that can be used in the research. Observations can fall in both qualitative and quantitative research. For instance, if you want to establish whether the introduction of traffic lights makes any difference to the traffic flow around a dangerous curve, you can sit near it and count the motor vehicles that slow down and those that don’t.

However, there are ethical concerns when it comes to observation. One of them is if the people being observed are aware of it. Have they consented to the observation? If some to them are not at peace with it, you have to ‘remove’ them from the study as you carry out your observation as you still go on studying the rest of the group.

image 14 Questionnaires

These ones are the best if you want to collect standardized information from a group of people. They can be both qualitative and quantitative even though they do not provide the level of details in qualitative responses. The design and delivery of questionnaires is very crucial and require care in their design. They can be distributed to a large number of people who would be impossible to interview.

Questionnaire are necessary if you what to measure some parameters for a group respondents or to make comparisons between groups of respondents.

image 15 Documentary analysis

In this research method, you have to obtain data from existing documents without carrying out interviews, questionnaires or using observation. This is the major way that historians use to collect data concerning their subjects. It can also be applied by the contemporary social scientist. Documents offer a great way of revealing information about people or organization that produced them as well as the social context in which they emerged. Some of these documents are in the public domain and accessible whereas others are confidential, classified, meaning they are available only to a select few. If they are to be used in a research, the researcher has to be guided on how to use them and how to ensure there is total confidentiality.

From the above explanation, it is to tell the distinction between research design and research methods. Your research design is the overall structure of the research study whereas research methods refers to the various processes, procedures and tools used by researchers to collect data an analyze it. Writing a research paper now will be easy for you especially if you understand the above aspects.

image 16 difference between research design and research methods

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