Educational Research Design

Educational Research DesignHow do I choose a research design?

Research methodology should be determined before conducting any research. There are three different types of research methodology you can select based on the nature of the study: qualitative research, quantitative research, and mixed methods research.

  • Qualitative research focuses on exploring and understanding how individuals/groups experience, perceive, and experience a social or human problem. The process involves collecting and analyzing non-numerical data offering rich meaning to the interpretation.
  • Quantitative research is an investigation of phenomena by collecting and analyzing numerical data to test strategies, theories, techniques, or assumptions.
  • Mixed methods research collects and analyzes using both qualitative and quantitative approaches, and the mixing of both approaches in a study. Thus, it allows the researcher to maximize the strengths of each approach and explore diverse perspectives to a comprehensive understanding of phenomena.  

Educational Research Designs

Descriptive Research: Naturalistic Observation Intro to Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses Genie Wiley--An Overview Observer Bias: Clever Horses and Dull Rats o Additional Resources (Web/PDF) - Naturalistic Observation: Definition, guide, and examples

1. Naturalistic and Existing Data Research Designs A type of existing data design in which events or behaviors are described based on a review and analysis of relevant historical and archival records.
2. Survey and Correlational Research Design A nonexperimental research design used to describe an individual or a group by having participants complete a survey or questionnaire. A correlational design uses data to determine if two or more factors are related/correlated.
3. Qualitative Research Process of collecting, analyzing, and interpreting non-numerical data to understand subjective perceptions, experiences, and behavior. Qualitative researchers are interpreting phenomena in terms of the meanings people bring to them
4. Phenomenology, Ethnography, and Ground Theory Designs Phenomenological studies examine human experiences through the descriptions provided by the people involved. These experiences are called lived experiences. The goal of phenomenological studies is to describe the meaning that experiences hold for each subject. Ethnographic studies involve the collection and analysis of data about cultural groups. Ground theory studies are studies in which data are collected and analyzed, and then a theory is developed that is grounded in the data.
5. Narrative Inquiry, Case Study, and Critical Theory Designs In narrative research, the researcher explores the life of one or more individuals through their stories and arranges these stories commonly in chronological order. Case Study develops an in-depth description and analysis of a case or multiple cases (i.e., event, program, activity). Critical theory methods challenge the conventional knowledge bases and methodologies to critique society (underlying assumptions related to social oppression) using a combination of observation and interviews.
6. Quasi-Experimental and Single-Case Experimental Designs Quasi-Experimental research designs investigate relationships between variables by comparing two groups and does not involve manipulating of the independent variable (defines the groups with a non-manipulated variable). Single-Case Experimental Designs are used to determine if an intervention impacted the individual. They are like case studies but are true experiments. 
7. Experimental Designs: Between-Subjects, Within- Subjects, and Factorial In a between subjects (or between-groups) design, each participant experiences a condition, and the group difference is compared (i.e., control group vs. experimental group, or multiple groups). In a within-subjects (or within-groups) study design, all participants experience every condition and the related measures from the same participants between different conditions are compared. A factorial experimental design examines the effect of two or more factors, each with multiple discrete possible values or “levels” – all possible combinations of the level of the factors are examined
8. Mixed-Methods Research Designs A mixed methods research design is a procedure for collecting, analyzing, and “mixing” both quantitative and qualitative research and methods in a single study to understand a research problem.


  1. Naturalistic and Existing Data Research Designs
  2. Survey and Correlational Research Design
  3. Qualitative Research
  4. Phenomenology, Ethnography, and Ground Theory Designs
  5. Narrative Inquiry, Case Study, and Critical Theory Designs
  6. Quasi-Experimental and Single-Case Experimental Designs
  7. Experimental Designs: Between Subjects, Within Subjects, and Factorial
  8. Mixed-Methods Research Designs