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Poor research design can result in low-quality results, and certainly difficulty in publishing your work. As we all know in academia, publishing quality research is critical for continued success in your field, including funding for projects and research related to the advancement of knowledge in your field.
In this article, we’ll go through some common research design flaws, including the possible consequences of poor research design. We’ll also consider different examples of poor research design, including methodological flaws in research. By avoiding these common research design flaws, you can ensure meaningful results that can proudly be disseminated.
Why Research Design is so Important
Beyond getting published, with significant and meaningful results, quality research design lays the foundation for your entire project. For example, effective research design helps establish quality decision-making procedures, structures the research in a way that leads to easier analysis of data, and addresses the main question you want answered, or the problem you’d like to solve.
By taking time at the beginning to design quality research, you can avoid many problems of poor design. By doing this, you are also giving yourself time to organize the research, set up relevant boundaries for your study, and increase the reliability of your results. Through all of these efforts, you can avoid misleading conclusions or incomplete results. If any part of your research design is flawed, the quality of your results will be flawed – sometimes exponentially.
Like any complex project, the devil is always in the detail, and the preparation can sometimes be more important (and time-consuming) than the actual time spent on the project. Think of painting a room, for example. If you don’t think through how to tape off places where you don’t want paint, where to start and end your painting efforts, and clean the area to be covered, you may not like the results.
But more importantly, poor research design can also be related to ethical concerns. For instance, if your study is not replicable by another research study, and it involved human subjects (for clinical trials, for example), there may be concerns of impropriety and other mistakes may be uncovered. These very real consequences of poor research design are something every responsible researcher could consider.
Common Flaws of Poor Research Design
These aren’t listed in any order, and only one of these issues can seriously compromise the quality of your research. Think of this list as a checklist of what to avoid when designing your research.
- Ethical implications: Your research design must include how you’ll minimize any risk for your participants. At the same time, you have to still be able to address the research problem or question at hand. If not, the objectivity and validity of your study might be questioned.
- Invalid theoretical framework: Do you have a logical hypothesis that can be tested? Does your research design have basic assumptions or postulates that you can test? If not, your research design is fundamentally flawed.
- Non-specific: If your research design is not concise and clear, and overly general, you are not conducting research that’s strong by design.
- Not linking the past with your study: Without a comprehensive research literature review, and identifying where there are knowledge and information gaps, it will be difficult to fill that gap. You’ll also need to clearly state how your research will contribute to the field, either by filling in missing information, challenging previous findings or assumptions.
- Insufficient or improper statistical analysis: This will, obviously, affect the quality of any quantitative research. Any meaningful interpretations will naturally fall short.
- Research Problem not Defined Well: This is one of the most basic aspects of research design. Your problem statement must be clear, and set the framework for the development of research questions that address the core problem.
- Research limitations: Every study has some type of limitation or limitations. You should be able to anticipate and incorporate those limitations into your conclusions, as well as your basic research design. Include a statement in your manuscript about any perceived limitations, and how you considered them in your design and conclusions.
- Research instruments and techniques: Are you using the best tools for your research? The most current and accepted surveys, for example? Describe your instruments and techniques accurately, and explain why you’re using them to solve the problem or answer the questions your research is asking.
- Poor sampling: A common flaw in poor research design is proximity sampling; that is, using subjects that are easy to get to. If their selection is based primarily on ease of access and having a convenient sample base, your research design is weak.
- Results that reflect provincialism: This is when your area, sampling, analysis, or scope is narrowly defined, restricting the relevance of your results to other locations, populations or circumstances.
Other common flaws related to poor research design can include a lack of experience on your team, a lack of resources and/or funding for your project, as well as the project itself being based on flawed data, or previous research, from the get-go.
Check more about: Research Team Structure.
What’s the solution?
In today’s world, there is much pressure to publish research at a break-neck pace. But, if we were to focus on quality over quantity, we can take the time to design high-quality research that is replicable and reliable.
To find out how Elsevier can help you ensure a quality manuscript, including reference and citation reviews, check out our full line of Author Services: