Research Design Types

Research Design Types.

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As a social work researcher, it is imperative that you understand the differences between the different research methods and designs. One way to classify research methods is whether they are qualitative or quantitative. Each type has a different purpose and methodological process.




Concerned with understanding human behavior from the informant’s perspective

Assumes a dynamic and negotiated reality

Concerned with discovering facts about social phenomena

Assumes a fixed and measurable reality


Data is collected through participant observations and interviews.

Data is analyzed by themes from descriptions by participants.

Data is reported in the language of the informant.

Data is collected through measuring things.

Data is analyzed by numerical comparisons and statistical inferences.

Data is reported through statistical analysis.

With quantitative methods, the researcher can use a variety of designs. Two popular designs are descriptive research/correlation studies and experimental research. Correlation studies aim to describe the relationship between variables, while experimental studies attempt to identify causation.

Upon successful completion of this assignment, you will be able to:

  • Demonstrate in writing the types of research designs within qualitative and quantitative methodologies.


  • File: Research Methods Cheat Sheet.pdf

Background Information

Researchers have two main research methods at their disposal, qualitative and quantitative. The two kinds of quantitative research are descriptive and experimental.


The purpose of qualitative research is to identify perceptions or attitudes on a specific topic. For example, a researcher might be interested in identifying clients’ perceptions of the services provided while residing in a halfway house. The researcher uses interviews to collect the data, then identifies patterns and themes to analyze the data.


The purpose of quantitative research varies depending on the design. One type, descriptive research, aims to describe something. For example, researchers might be interested in describing the dynamics among participants in a group therapy session. Observations are used to collect the data, and descriptive statistics are used for data analysis.

Another way to conduct descriptive research is by describing the relationship between variables. This design is referred to as correlation research. For example, a researcher might be interested in describing the relationship between the use of social media tools (such as Facebook and Twitter) and depression. Given that correlation research is used as a means of identifying a relationship between variables, causation cannot be determined. In other words, one can only state that there is a relationship between the use of social media and depression; one cannot state that the use of social media causes depression. Although data can be collected through the use of interviews, surveys/questionnaires are most commonly used. With correlation research, various types of statistics are used to analyze the data.


Another type of quantitative study is experimental research. Unlike correlation research, which is limited to identifying a relationship between variables, the purpose of experimental research is to determine causation. The researcher will explore the effects of an intervention to determine if a change did in fact occur. For example, a researcher might be interested in exploring the effects of a psychoeducational group on the treatment of substance abuse. In this case, the intervention is the psychoeducational group. The researcher usually will collect baseline data, implement the intervention, and then collect post data. To compare data, often the sample includes an intervention group and a control group. However, this is not required. With experimental research, various types of statistics are used to analyze the data (e.g., Pearson or product-moment correlation).


  1. Review the rubric to make sure you understand the criteria for earning your grade.
  2. Read Research Methods Cheat Sheet.pdf.
  3. Write a minimum of a two-page summary of qualitative, descriptive, and experimental research. Be sure to:
    1. Discuss the purpose of each design.
    2. Discuss the problem statement formula and identify an example using the formula.
    3. Summarize the types of sampling methods used for each design.
    4. Discuss the appropriate data collection methods for each design.
    5. Discuss the appropriate data analysis methods for each design.
  4. The paper should be in paragraph format and include an APA-style cover page. In-text citations and a reference page are not necessary.

Research Design Types

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