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  • 00:07

    [An Introduction to Research Design]

  • 00:10

    ERIC JENSEN: My name is Eric Jensen.I'm a sociology professor at the University of Warwick.

  • 00:15

    CHARLES LAURIE: And I'm Charles Laurie, Director of Researchat Verisk Maplecroft.

  • 00:18

    ERIC JENSEN: In this video, we'regoing to talk about how you can develop a good researchquestion and find appropriate and feasible ways of measuringkey concepts within your research question.You then need to match your overall researchgoals to specific research methodsthat you can use to address those goals,and you'll need to think ahead to avoid obstacles thatcan slow down or derail your data

  • 00:39

    ERIC JENSEN [continued]: collection, analysis, and write-up.[What is research design?}

  • 00:46

    CHARLES LAURIE: Now let's make a start.When you're getting started on your research,you'll face many decisions.To achieve your research objectivesyou need a roadmap to keep you on a good path.This roadmap is your research design.Your research design is the plan youdevelop to outline the methods and procedures youwill use throughout your research project.

  • 01:07

    CHARLES LAURIE [continued]: Your design helps you get out in frontof risks and uncertainties, which gives youthe best chance possible of successfully arrivingat a completed research report you can be proud of.[What does research design look like?]

  • 01:21

    ERIC JENSEN: You'll need to pinpoint precisely what you'regoing to measure and what research approach willbe the best fit for your topic.Developing a good research designinvolves matching your research goals to appropriate methodsfor addressing those goals.As your research design develops,you need to choose what type of datato collect, who to collect that data from,

  • 01:42

    ERIC JENSEN [continued]: where to collect that data, and how.This process rarely involves drawing a straight linefrom a general idea to a specific detailed plan.

  • 01:52

    CHARLES LAURIE: You'll probably need to adjust your researchdesign to account for new informationand unexpected challenges to your initial plans.In this figure from Doing Real Research,we illustrate this process of decision-making, planning,and replanning that takes place during the research designprocess.

  • 02:11

    ERIC JENSEN: As you develop your research design,you'll find that there's rarely oneright way to conduct research.There'll be a range of options, each involvingtrade offs of some kind.Just be sure to document and justify the decisionsyou make along the way.You can do this by keeping a research diary thatincludes notes on the issues you encounter,

  • 02:32

    ERIC JENSEN [continued]: the options you consider, and ultimately the choices you makeand why you made those choices.This practice of establishing an audit trail for your thoughtprocess as it develops during your research journeycan save you some major headaches later.This is because a decision that can seem obvious now,might be easily forgettable later.

  • 02:53

    ERIC JENSEN [continued]: [Developing a Research Question]

  • 02:57

    CHARLES LAURIE: Now let's go through whatit takes to develop a good research question.First of all, your research questiongoverns all aspects of your project.It defines what data you collect and how you analyze that data.Your research question needs to beboth feasible and interesting to other people or institutions.Consider the following points when crafting your research

  • 03:19

    CHARLES LAURIE [continued]: question.What are you looking to find out?What are your key explanatory variablesand outcome variables?What information do you need to answer your research question?Will it be feasible to gather the data you needin the time you have available?And if not, that means you probablyneed to narrow or change your research topic.

  • 03:42

    CHARLES LAURIE [continued]: Also ask yourself whether the answer to your researchquestion is likely to offer useful insights that contributeto ongoing debates in your field of study,or would your research question add to current knowledgeby shedding light on a new or underresearched aspectof your topic.Would your research results help to develop a theory,

  • 04:02

    CHARLES LAURIE [continued]: or shed new light on an existing theory?Finally, ask yourself whether your research questionis too broad to be realistically answerable in your situation.Keep in mind that it's nearly impossible to have a researchquestion that is too focused.

  • 04:19

    ERIC JENSEN: Developing a tightly focused and answerableresearch question is the crucial first step in the researchdesign process, and it will becomethe foundation of your project.A poorly formulated question may result in a research projectthat is hopelessly broad and unachievable within your budgetand time constraints.In contrast, a carefully crafted question

  • 04:41

    ERIC JENSEN [continued]: enables you to focus your efforts whichwill put you on a good track for a completed project.Once you've refined your research question,you can build the rest of your project around it.

  • 04:51

    CHARLES LAURIE: Now here are some principlesto help you craft a good research question.First, target a research gap.That means aim your question at a gap, a weakness,or an underdeveloped area in the existing researchliterature on your topic.This can show your reader that thereis a need for your research.Second, keep your research question narrow and specific.

  • 05:14

    CHARLES LAURIE [continued]: This is because your research questionneeds to be answerable.A narrow and specific question meansthat you are creating a manageable researchtask for yourself.A focused research question with clear boundariescan save time and resources by limiting wasted efforts.Don't worry, a narrow focus can stillyield plenty of data for your project.

  • 05:35

    CHARLES LAURIE [continued]: Third, be analytical.The question should demonstrate more than mere descriptionin order to contribute to general knowledgeabout your topic.To make connections to general knowledge,be sure to make connections to theoretical concepts.Fourth, be clear and brief.Maintain maximum clarity by ensuring your research questionis not too long or too difficult to understand.

  • 05:59

    CHARLES LAURIE [continued]: Your question should simply and brieflycommunicate the key information about what variablesyou'll be exploring.

  • 06:05

    ERIC JENSEN: You must be able to demonstratethat you can plausibly answer the researchquestion with the data that you are planning to collect.For example, consider the research questionwhy do young people use Facebook?If you only collect survey data from students in one universityclassroom, you wouldn't really beable to address that large question.Instead you would need a more focused research question.

  • 06:28

    ERIC JENSEN [continued]: For example, you could use a sampleof students in one university departmentto address a more specific question such as, whatare the self-reported motivations for using Facebookamongst first year psychology students at a UK university?

  • 06:42

    CHARLES LAURIE: In continuing on with the Facebook example,you could ask yourself the following questions,what do I want to know?And an answer might be I want to knowwhy people are using Facebook.You could ask, what is the population I'm aiming to study?And an answer could be I'm studying first year psychologystudents at a UK university.

  • 07:02

    CHARLES LAURIE [continued]: You could also ask, have I specified the main variablesI'm interested in?And an answer might be you looking at motivationsfor using Facebook.And finally, you could also ask the question,how could I limit the research scope?[Operationalize Key Concepts]

  • 07:21

    ERIC JENSEN: After establishing your research question,you'll need to start considering how youcould measure its key concepts.Some concepts are easy to measure.For example, you can measure participants genderby asking them to tick a box next to male, female,or other in a survey form.But for other concepts, you may needto be creative in devising appropriate and feasible ways

  • 07:42

    ERIC JENSEN [continued]: of testing those variables.For example, when I needed to measure learning outcomesfor children aged 7 to 15 visiting London Zoo,I decided to have them make drawings of a wildlife habitatand all the plants and animals that lived there.They did that before and after their zoo visitso I could compare and see whether therewere any improvements over the course of the visit.

  • 08:02

    ERIC JENSEN [continued]: This process of figuring out how youcan measure an abstract concept relevant to your project,an abstract concept like learning or gender,this process is called operationalization.

  • 08:14

    CHARLES LAURIE: Let's take another example.If you want to assess which brands of clothingare popular amongst web uses, youcould measure this by analyzing the keywords enteredinto a search engine, such as google.If you find that search terms associated with one brandare particularly popular, this couldindicate that the brand is favored by online consumers.

  • 08:34

    CHARLES LAURIE [continued]: Of course, there could be other reasonsa brand is searched for a lot, such as scandal.The reason for going through this operationalization processis to help you develop your plansby establishing precisely what you willbe measuring in your project.[Focus in Research]

  • 08:52

    ERIC JENSEN: Finally, we want to highlight the importanceof focus in your research.You may find that you need to reduce the scopeof your project along the way.In this case, look for places where you can make a clean cut.For example, a whole section, or one out of threeof your comparison cases, so that youdon't create more work by having to edit the sectionyou cut down in size.

  • 09:13

    ERIC JENSEN [continued]: At the time, cutting down your scope may be hard to accept,but you'll be much happier in the longer termif you make the decision early on, before investinga lot of time and effort and resourcesin a direction you don't have time to fully develop.By developing and refining you'reclear and achievable research question,

  • 09:33

    ERIC JENSEN [continued]: you'll keep your research on trackas you encounter many interesting pathwaysalong your research journey.Along this journey, your mantra should be stay focused.

Video Info

Publisher: SAGE Publications Ltd

Publication Year: 2017

Video Type:Tutorial

Methods: Research design, Research questions

Keywords: decision making; practices, strategies, and tools

Segment Info

Segment Num.: 1

Persons Discussed:

Events Discussed:



Dr. Eric Jensen, Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick, and Dr. Charles Laurie, Director of Research at Verisk Maplecroft, discuss research design and offer tips for the process. Research design involves the creation of a road map to keep the research on track and to not get sidetracked. Jensen and Laurie discuss developing and operationalizing a research question.

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An Introduction to Research Design

Dr. Eric Jensen, Professor of Sociology at the University of Warwick, and Dr. Charles Laurie, Director of Research at Verisk Maplecroft, discuss research design and offer tips for the process. Research design involves the creation of a road map to keep the research on track and to not get sidetracked. Jensen and Laurie discuss developing and operationalizing a research question.

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