Research design involves taking a question or problem and testing it to come up with a possible or definitive answer. There are two main types of research design: qualitative and quantitative. Additionally, there are many career options within the field of research design, including creative, scientific or a combination of both.
Quantitative, or fixed, design allows the researcher to actively change the circumstances of the experiment. In this type of research, the researcher can control the conditions that lead to changes in behavior. This can also be considered explanatory research, as the focus is on the question of "why."
For example, a city is experiencing an increasing crime rate. To combat this problem the city puts more officers on the street. Suppose that this did nothing to change the crime rate initially. The city would look at why it did not work, and what can be done to change that outcome. After studying the problem, the city determines they need to train officers to deal with gangs and gang activities. Once the training is completed, crime rates begin to drop.
This shows how studying the problem, considering different solutions, deciding on a method to solve the problem and then implementing that solution caused a different result than the initial method of simply hiring more officers. This provides the answer to the question of "why."
Qualitative, or flexible, design deals with the study aspect of solving a problem. This is an answer to "what," and identifies the problem itself. This works hand in hand with quantitative design, as problems cannot be tested for solutions until they have been identified.
Using the same example, when the city initially tried to reduce crime rates, they simply hired more officers. What was wrong with that approach is the fact that they did not have an adequate description of what the problem was. When they did further investigation and determined that the officers needed training in gangs and gang activities, they had a better idea of what the problem was. Their "what" was identified, which led to options of how to solve the problem.
Research design careers are available in almost every field and sector of the economy. For example, public opinion researchers determine the issues people are facing; what is wrong, what is good and so on. A public opinion analyst would then look at why these issues are occurring and propose solutions to make things better. Another example would be a research engineer in the field of commercial kitchen ventilation. In this case the researcher determines just how much energy is needed for specific commercial kitchen appliances to vent cooking effluent outside the kitchen. This knowledge can be translated into savings for the restaurant, as well as resulting in a positive ecological outcome.
Who Should Consider a Career in Research Design
This field is perfect for those who like to figure out what a problem is, or what solutions can be had to fix a problem. Research design is the right career for individuals who want to know more, and are not satisfied with the status quo.