Ask the expert: Understanding research design

Nurse Leader Insider, April 12, 2010

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This week, Marquetta Flaugher, ARNP-BC, DSN, offers advice for those nurses starting their research programs and the various ways to arrive at a particular research design.

Q: What kind of advice can I offer the few nurses on my unit who have begun research studies and are unsure of the type of research design they should use?

A: Research design is the framework for describing how to conduct research that is meant to answer a clinical question. The design should describe how to carry out the research in a way that will best obtain the appropriate answers. It includes details on sample selection, how data will be collected and analyzed, use of specific tools, and a time frame for completion. Planning a research design is based on a series of selections that helps the researchers decide on either a quantitative or qualitative design.

When reviewing methodology to determine a design, the researcher should decide:

  1. What information will be gathered
  2. Whether the problem being studied affects a large number of people
  3. How the data will be analyzed
  4. What additional resources are needed to conduct the research

When planning a research design, the investigator should also consider other important factors, including time, subject availability, facility resources, money, research experience, and ethics.

To learn additional ways to help determine the type of research design to choose, click here.

Editor’s note: Do you have a question for our experts? E-mail your queries to Editorial Assistant Sarah Kearns at and see your name in print next week! In the meantime, head over to our Web site and view a growing collection of advice from our experts.

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