Designing a Research Project (2010) by Piet Verschuren et al.

Verschuren, Piet and Doorewaard, Hans

Abstract

The prime purpose of this book is teaching graduate students and doctoral candidates to develop an effective research design. A second, derived objective is to assist them in designing their own qualification research. In this book, insights, guiding principles and methodologies are presented for developing a research design. No particular knowledge for studying this book is required. On the basis of many examples, the reader is gradually introduced into the creative process of designing. At the conclusion of each chapter, a step-by-step plan of action is presented, which should be followed when designing a research project. Now in its second edition, this book includes several important adjustments, moderations and additional sections. The authors extended the presentation of the intervention, and the elaboration of the set of practice-oriented research types which are based upon the distinct phases of the intervention cycle. In addition, the technique of unraveling key concepts is further specified. Numerous examples have been updated and even more examples have been added in order to present the reader with a wide variety of examples from many different social sciences. An extended series of assignments has been included in the book, offering the reader multiple opportunities to test their knowledge and to practice their skills in designing a research project. The Appendix covers a thorough discussion concerning designing conceptual (causal) models.

Citation Piet Verschuren, Hans Doorewaard (2010). Designing a Research Project (Second). The Hague, Netherlands. Eleven International Publishing. Book

BibTex entry for this book:

BibTex entry for this book:

@book{verschuren2010designing,
address = {The Hague, Netherlands},
author = {Verschuren, Piet and Doorewaard, Hans},
edition = {Second},
isbn = {978-90-5931-572-3},
publisher = {Eleven International Publishing},
title = {{Designing a Research Project}},
year = {2010}
}

Table of contents

Chapter 1: Project Design
  • Project design – in a nutshell
  • Designing iteratively

Part 1 - Conceptual Design

Chapter 2: Research Objective
  • The project context and the research objective
  • Theory-oriented research
  • Practice-oriented research
Chapter 3: Research Framework
  • Constructing a research framework
  • Specific methodology
Chapter 4: Research Questions
  • Function and form requirements for research questions
  • Subdividing the research framework
  • Corroborative types of knowledge
  • Unravelling key concepts
Chapter 5: Defining Concepts
  • Delineation
  • Operationalising
  • Linking up to the research objective

Part 2 - Technical Research Design

Chapter 6: Research Strategies
  • Five strategies in a nutshell
  • Survey research
  • Experiment
  • Case studies
  • The grounded theory approach
  • Desk research
Chapter 7: Research Material
  • Sources
  • Accessing sources
  • Advantages and disadvantages
Chapter 8: Research Planning
  • Characteristics of planning
  • Activity plan
  • Time schedule

Appendix: Conceptual Model

  • The composition of a conceptual model
  • Basic patterns of causal relationship
  • Different uses of conceptual models
  • Demarcation and steering
  • A step-by-step plan for constructing a conceptual model

Key ideas

Designing research involves two separate sets of activities. The first involves determining everything you wish to achieve through the research project. This has to do with modelling the content of the research; we call this the conceptual design of a research project. The second set of activities concerns how to realise all this during the implementation stage of the project. This is called the technical research design. (p. 16)

Conceptual design

The conceptual design determines what, why and how much we are going to study:

  • The research objective
  • The project context
  • The research framework

It consists of four elements:

  1. Research objective
  2. Research framework
  3. Research questions
  4. Core concepts

In the first place, the objective of the research project is formulated, i.e. the goal of the research. It concerns the contribution the researcher wishes to make to solve a problem outside the research itself. That is why the research objective is also called the external aim of the research, the goal of the project.

The research objective concerns the use of the knowledge the research produces, not the knowledge itself.

Secondly, this research objective must be derived from and embedded in what we will be referring to as the project context.

The draft of the research structure is then developed into a research framework. A research framework consists of a schematic representation of the most important research phases. Subsequently, the researcher must determine which information can contribute towards achieving the selected research objective.

We are now at the stage of formulating the set of research questions. This set consists of a number of core questions and sub-questions that need to be answered during the different phases of the research project. The answers to the research questions provide the exact knowledge required in order to achieve the research objective.

An important part of formulating the research questions is determining which theoretical framework (or research perspective) will be used to study the research object. Sometimes the theoretical framework consists of a ready-made theory that the researcher has found while studying the relevant literature. But more often than not, the researcher will have to derive a theoretical framework from different theories that need to be adjusted in order to fit the research project. Such a theoretical framework often takes the form of a so-called conceptual model.

The conceptual model is the theoretical framework of the research project, and it consists of a set of assumed relationships between the core concepts of this project.

The final part of the conceptual design concerns a set of activities in which the core concepts of the research objective, the research questions and the conceptual model are defined, refined and made concrete. It is particularly important that abstractly defined core concepts are translated into observable phenomena, i.e. indicators. This process is called defining and operationalising the key concepts. This process helps the researcher to demarcate his or her research object.

Technical design

The technical design consists of the decisions concerning how, where and when we are going to do our research in order to answer the research questions.

It consists of three elements:

  1. Research strategy
  2. Research material generation
  3. Research plan

A first step to be taken is the selection of the research strategy.

Core questions to be answered are:

  • Is the researcher looking for breadth or depth?
  • Will he or she follow a quantitative or qualitative approach?
  • First-hand observation or an analysis of information or data produced by others?

Once the researcher has decided on a research strategy, he or she needs to choose a set of activities which establish the kind of research material needed to answer the research questions:

  • Where is this research material to be found?
  • Or how can it be produced?

We call this carefully deliberated set of decisions the plan of research material generation, in quantitative research also known as the process of data gathering.

The third and final category of activities and decisions that are needed within the framework of making a technical design concerns a clear and consistent research plan.

Research design steps

  1. Explore the project context of the research project at hand and decide on a single and a feasible research objective.
  2. Construct a research framework that gives a general indication of the steps that you plan to take to achieve the research objective.
  3. Examine which information will be useful or necessary in order to achieve the research objective (partly on the basis of the research framework).
    • Then formulate this information into a set of research questions and - if appropriate - into a conceptual model.
  4. Determine the core concepts of the project and tailor the definitions and operationalisations of the concepts to the research objective and set of research questions.
  5. Determine what research strategy you are going to follow when gathering and processing the material into answers to the questions.
  6. For each research question, examine what type of research material you need in order to arrive at sound answers.
  7. Draw up a research plan that indicates:
    • the activities you are going to carry out,
    • when this will take place,
    • and which products will result during the separate phases of research.

Notes

Overview

  1. Explore the project context of the research project at hand and decide on a single and a feasible research objective
  2. Construct a research framework that gives a general indication of the steps that you plan to take to achieve the research objective
  3. Examine which information will be useful or necessary in order to achieve the research objective
  4. Formulate this information into a set of research questions
  5. Formulate this information into a conceptual model
  6. Determine the core concepts of the project
  7. Tailor the definitions and operationalisations of the concepts to the research objective and set of research questions
  8. Determine what research strategy you are going to follow when gathering and processing the material into answers to the questions
  9. For each research question, examine what type of research material you need in order to arrive at sound answers
  10. Draw up a research plan showing activities you are going to carry out
    • When this will take place;
    • Which products will result during the separate phases of research

Chapter 1: Project Design

Designing can be compared to making a painting.
When you are engaged in this activity, you continuously work in all areas of the canvas.
The shapes and colours of one section inspire the shapes and colours of another.
From time to time you take a step back, your eyes half-closed, to view and ponder the quality and harmony of the whole.

Read more ...

Chapter 2: Research Objective

Don't bite off more than you can chew

Read more ...

Chapter 3: Research Framework

A useful step in between formulating the research objective and the set of research questions is to draw up a research framework. A research framework is a schematic representation of the research objective and includes the appropriate steps that need to be taken in order to achieve it. Once such a scheme has been drawn up, the structure of the research plan is clear. It shows clearly how the different phases of the research are interconnected, and how the one step implies the other. In short, the research framework represents the internal logic of a research project.

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Chapter 4: Research Questions

Chapter 5: Defining Concepts

Chapter 6: Research Strategies

Chapter 7: Research Material

Chapter 8: Research Planning

Appendix: Conceptual Model

A conceptual model consists of a set of assumed causal relationships bet? ween the core concepts of a research project. That is why it is also called a causal model. However, because of its theoretical nature, we prefer to use the term conceptual model. (p. 267)

A well-designed conceptual model should serve two designing purposes: (p. 267)

  • It helps the researcher to demarcate clearly his or her research subject;
  • It supports the researcher to formulate the assumed relationships between the core concepts correctly and to link the research project to an existing theory.

Read more ...

References

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