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Reflecting on Research Design

It is useful to think of research as involving a number of components, which in combination constitute a research design. However, before we begin these explorations, it may be useful to reflect on the broader research design considerations into which methods would be situated:

  1. Research question(s): the specific question(s) that the researcher believes can be answered using particular methods. For example: How do non-asian teenage fans of Japanese anime construct identity online?
  2. A conceptual framework: the theoretical perspective that underpins the research. For example: Cultural practices online offer rich and specific ways of (co-)constructing varied identities, offering valuable insights into the lives of teenagers. 
  3. A methodology: the application of methods, specifying which approaches will be used, why, when, and for what purpose. For example: An ethnographic approach, involving participant observation and interviews, would allow the researcher to gain ‘authentic’ experience of community participation, and in-depth responses from participants that would develop the understanding of identity. 
  4. Ethical considerations: identifying potential problems and risks produced by the methodology. Key here are potential risks to research participants. For example: How do members of a public online group consent to be observed by a researcher? How can subsequent analysis of the ethnographic data protect participant identities?

Question design

There are a number of ways that survey questions may be problematic. You should not ask questions that your respondents are unlikely to know the answers to, or imply a demand for an unreasonable degree of precision.

If you provide a set range of answers for participants, make sure that they are clear about whether you are requesting that they select only one answer from the set, or that they should indicate all that apply.