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The length and complexity of research designs can vary considerably, but any sound design will do the following things:
Identify the research problem clearly and justify its selection,
Review previously published literature associated with the problem area,
Clearly and explicitly specify hypotheses [i.e., research questions] central to the problem selected,
Effectively describe the data which will be necessary for an adequate test of the hypotheses and explain how such data will be obtained, and
Describe the methods of analysis which will be applied to the data in determining whether or not the hypotheses are true or false.
Focuses on the end product: what kind of study is being planned and what kind of results are aimed at.
Focuses on the research process and the kind of tools and procedures to be used
For example: Historical - comparative study, interpretive approach or exploratory study, inductive and deductive, etc.
For exmple: Document analysis, survey methods, analysis of existing (secondary) data/statistics etc.
Point of departure (driven by) = Research problem or question.
Point of departure (driven by) = Specific tasks (data collection or sampling) at hand.
Focuses on the logic of research: What evidence is required to address the question adequately?
Focuses on the individual (not linear) steps in the research process and the most ‘objective’ (unbiased) procedures to be employed.
Source: Mouton, J (2001). How to succeed in your master's and doctoral studies: a South African guide book. Pretoria:Van Schaik.
Bean, J. 2006, ‘Light and shadow in research design’, in CF Conrad, & RC Serlin (eds), The SAGE handbook for research in education: Engaging ideas and enriching inquiry, SAGE Publications, Inc., Thousand Oaks, CA, (Chapter 20, pp. 353-73)