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Research Design

A design is used to structure the research, to show how all of the major parts of the research project; the samples or groups, measures, treatments or programs, and methods of assignment, work together to try to address the central research questions.

Obtaining advice on research design is important for anyone wanting to apply for funding, as funding streams have particular requirements and it is both efficient and helpful to find out about these from experienced researchers.

Research, design and development is the key to this process. The process of research design will examine all the potential risks, ethical issues, peer review requirements and hurdles you will need to overcome to get the research project from the planning stage to the implementation stage and beyond. Good project management is the key to success and the process should map out deadlines for completion of key stages.

When designing research projects, researchers should ensure that:

  • The proposed research addresses pertinent question(s) and is designed either to add to existing knowledge about the subject in question or to develop methods for research into it;
  • The design of the study is appropriate for the question(s) being asked and addresses the most important potential sources of bias;
  • The design and conduct of the study, including how data will be gathered, analysed and managed, are set out in detail in a pre-specified research plan or protocol;
  • All necessary skills and experience will be available to carry out the proposed research, in the proposed research team or through collaboration with specialists in relevant fields;
  • Sufficient resources will be available to carry out the proposed research and that these resources will meet the relevant standards;
  • Any issues relating to the above are resolved as far as possible prior to the start of the research.

It may also be appropriate to undertake a risk assessment of the planned study to determine:

  • Whether there are any ethical issues and whether ethics review is required;
  • The potential for risks to the University, the research or the health, safety or well-being of researcher or research participants;
  • What legal requirements govern the research.

Where the design has been approved by ethics, regulatory or peer review, researchers should ensure that any subsequent alterations to the design are subject to appropriate review to determine that they will not compromise the integrity of the research or any terms of consent previously given.