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Research Design

Objectives of Research

The prime objectives of research are

  • To discover new facts
  • To verify and test important facts
  • To analyse an event or process or phenomenon to identify the cause and effect relationship
  • To develop new scientific tools, concepts and theories to solve and understand scientific and nonscientific problems
  • To find solutions to scientific, nonscientific and social problems and
  • To overcome or solve the problems occurring in our everyday life.

 Introduction

The research design is the conceptual structure within which research is conducted. It provides the back bone structure of the study; it supports the study and holds it together. The research design refers to the researcher overall plan for answering the research question or testing the research hypotheses.
The research design refers to the overall strategy that you choose to integrate the different components of the study in a coherent and logical way, thereby, ensuring you will effectively address the research problem; it constitutes the blueprint for the collection, measurement, and analysis of data. It a detailed outline of how an investigation will take place. A research design will typically include how data is to be collected, what instruments will be employed, how the instruments will be used and the intended means for analyzing data collected.
Hence Research Design is:

  • A framework for the research plan of action.
  • A master plan that specifies the methods and procedures for collecting and analyzing the needed information
  • A strategy for how the data will be collected.

PROCESS OF DESIGNING & CONDUCTING A RESEARCH PROJECT

  • What–What was studied?
  • What about–What aspects of the subject were studied?
  • What for–What is/was the significance of the study?
  • What did prior lit./research say?
  • What was done–How was the study conducted?
  • What was found?
  • So what?
  • What now?

After selecting the research problem and formulating research objective or hypothesis the next step is to work out a proper research design or study design.
How to Choose a Research Design

  • Does it adequately test the hypothesis?
  • Does it identify & control extraneous factors?
  • Are results generalizable?
  • Can the hypothesis be rejected or retained via statistical means?
  • Is the design efficient in using available resources?



Different Research Designs

  1. Exploratory type research design
  2. Descriptive type research design
  3. Diagnostic type research design
  4. Experimental type research design

1.Exploratory type research design:

Exploratory or formulative study is a study in which relatively little is known about the phenomenon, sometimes also called a pilot study. As enough data relevant to the problem are gathered, the researcher knowledge about his subject improves and he becomes capable of formulating a clear hypothesis for further testing and confirmation. Since this type of research emphasis on discovery of ideas and insights its design is always kept flexible and non-structured to permit considerations of different aspects of a phenomenon.
PURPOSES:

  • To generate new ideas.
  • To increase the researchers familiarity with the problem, or
  • To make precise formulation of the problem.
  • To determine whether it is feasible to attempt the study.

2. Descriptive Research:

Descriptive research is non-experimental research designed to discover new meaning and to provide new knowledge where there is very little known about the phenomena of interest. Data collection by using one or more appropriate methods; observation, interviewing and mail questionnaire. Descriptive research aims at answering the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of the current state of some system.
DESCRIPTIVE RESEARCH -> two types

  1. CROSS SECTIONAL.
  2. LONGITUDINAL

3. Diagnostic Research

  • Diagnostic study is similar to descriptive study with a different focus. It is directed towards discovering what is happening, why it is happening and what can be done. It aims at identifying the causes of problem and the possible solutions for it.
  • More directly concerned with causal relationships and with implications for action than descriptive study.
  • Directed towards discovering not only what is occurring but why it is occurring and what can be done about it.
  • More actively guided by hypothesis than descriptive study.
  • A diagnostic research design determines the frequency with which a variable occurs or its relationship with another variable. In other words, the study analyzing whether a certain variable is associated with another comprises a diagnostic research study.

Data for diagnosis can be obtained in four major ways:

  1. Case history or Interview
  2. Clinical observation
  3. Informal testing
  4. Formal standardized testing

4. Experimental type research design

  • Experiment is a study in which the investigator manipulates or varies (called the independent variables) & measures other variables (called the dependent variables).
  • When an experiment is possible it is the most effective method of testing a hypothesis. i.e; one variable ‘X’ casually influences another variable ‘Y’

Features of Research Design:
The important features of Research Design may be outlined as follows:

  1. It constitutes a plan that identifies the types and sources of information required for the research problem;
  2. It constitutes a strategy that specifies the methods of data collection and analysis which would be adopted; and
  3. It also specifies the time period of research and monetary budget involved in conducting the study, which comprise the two major constraints of undertaking any research

Characteristics of a Good Research Design:
A good research design often possesses the qualities of being flexible, suitable, efficient, economical and so on. Generally, a research design which minimizes bias and maximizes the reliability of the data collected and analysed is considered a good design (Kothari 1988). A research design which does not allow even the smallest experimental error is said to be the best design for investigation. Further, a research design that yields maximum information and provides an opportunity of viewing the various dimensions of a research problem is considered to be the most appropriate and efficient design. Thus, the question of a good design relates to the purpose or objective and nature of the research problem studied. While a research design may be good, it may not be equally suitable to all studies. In other words, it may be lacking in one aspect or the other in the case of some other research problems. Therefore, no single research design can be applied to all types of research problems.
A research design suitable for a specific research problem would usually involve the following considerations:

  1. The methods of gathering the information;
  2. The skills and availability of the researcher and his/her staff, if any;

iii. The objectives of the research problem being studied;

  1. The nature of the research problem being studied; and
  2. The available monetary support and duration of time for the research work.

Some study designs:
There are many types of study designs. These are given below:

  • Case Report:

In medicine, a case report is a detailed report of the symptomssignsdiagnosis, treatment, and follow-up of an individual patient. Case reports may contain a demographic profile of the patient, but usually describe an unusual or novel occurrence. Some case reports also contain a literature review of other reported cases.
Most case reports are on one of six topics:

  • An unexpected association betweendiseases or symptoms.
  • An unexpected event in the course of observing or treating a patient.
  • Findings that shed new light on the possiblepathogenesis of a disease or an adverse effect.
  • Unique or rare features of a disease.
  • Unique therapeutic approaches.
  • A positional or quantitative variation of the anatomical structures.

Case Series Report:
case series (also known as a clinical series) is a type of medical research study that tracks subjects with a known exposure, such as patients who have received a similar treatment, or examines their medical records for exposure and outcome. Case series may be consecutive or non-consecutive, depending on whether all cases presenting to the reporting authors over a period were included, or only a selection.
 Advantages

  • Useful for hypothesis generation
  • Informative for very rare disease with few established risk factors
  • Characterizes averages for disorder

Disadvantages

  • Cannot study cause and effect relationships
  • Cannot assess disease frequency

Longitudinal and Cross Section Studies:
It is the single examination of a cross section of population at one point of time and it helps to generate a hypothesis. It is used to investigate non fatal diseases. Both exposure and outcome (disease) are determined simultaneously for each subject. It provides the information about the frequency or characteristic of disease.
Merits:

  • Provide information about the frequency of an attribute and potential risk factors.
  • Helps to generate a hypothesis.
  • Can give a good picture about the health care needs of the population at the point of time.
  • Can be used to investigate multiple exposures and multiple outcomes.
  • Suitable for chronic cases.

Demerits:

  • Difficult to establish the time of sequence of events
  • They are not suitable to investigate rare diseases, rare exposure or disease of short duration
  • Being based on prevalent rather than incident cases
  • Limited value to investigate etiological relationship

 

  • Case control study

It is the type of analytical study. Retrospective evaluation to determine who was exposed and who was not exposed retrospective study. This is non experimental study. Case control study is a common first approach to test causal hypothesis. It is to examine the possible relation of an exposure to certain disease. It is to identify the individual having the disease – case
 
It has 4 basic steps in conducting a case control study,

  1. Selection of cases and controls
  2. Matching
  3. Measurement of exposure
  4. Analysis and interpretation

Cohort Study:
It is forward looking study. It is also known as prospective study. There is regular follow up over a period of time. The study proceeds from cause to effect.
 Elements of a cohort study,

  1. Selection of study subjects
  2. Obtaining data on exposure
  3. Selection of comparison group
  4. Follow-up
  5. Analysis

Randomized Controlled Trials (RCT):
This is a type of experimental study.
Basic steps in conducting a RCT,

  1. Drawing up a protocol
  2. Selecting reference & exp. Group
  3. Randomization
  4. Manipulation or intervention
  5. Follow-up
  6. Assessment of outcome

Design of RCT

 
Meta analysis:
It is a statistical analysis of a collection of studies. Meta-analysis methods focus on contrasting and comparing results from different studies in anticipation of identifying consistent patterns and sources of disagreements among these results.
Conclusion
Before beginning any study an exhaustive review of all the existing literature must be taken. This will enable us to carry out scientifically sound, practically feasible studies which are useful and appropriate for our people and our conditions. A study should commence only when investigator has complete information regarding following points:

  • In what population the study will be carried out?
  • What are the objectives?
  • Which sampling method will serve his purpose? Is it practically feasible, cheap and efficient?
  • Which sampling method will serve his purpose? What should be the sample size?
  • How he will be collecting information? In a questionnaire – were they tested and standardized?
  • Which statistical techniques he wishes to use? Are they appropriate?

Once all these points are clear, it is easy for the student to interpret the conclusion of the study and present or publish his study.
Reference

  • A. Asir John Samuel, Research Design, Lecturer, ACP
  • Indian pharmaceutical company: A vision with its strength and weakness, by Dr. A. Selvaraj, International Journal of Current Research, Vol. 3, Issue, 11, pp.013-015, November, 2011
  • INDIAN JOURNAL OF ANAESTHESIA, CLINICAL RESEARCH, Dr. S. P. Kalantri, 2003; 47 (1) : 30-32.
  • Kothari, C.R.,1985, Research Methodology- Methods and Techniques, New Delhi, Wiley Eastern Limited.
  • Kumar, Ranjit, 2005, Research Methodology-A Step-by-Step Guide for Beginners,(2nd.ed.),Singapore, Pearson Education.
  • Dawson, Catherine, 2002, Practical Research Methods, New Delhi, UBS Publishers’Distributors.
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Case_report.

 
 
 
Authors:

  • Dr Indrajeet P. Shah is Reader, Dept of Medicine, Dr D. Y. Patil Homoeopathic Medical College, Pune.
  • Dr Amit A. Bhasme is Lecture, Dept of Medicine, Dr D. Y. Patil Homoeopathic Medical College, Pune.

 

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