How to Choose a Research Method & Design

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  • 0:51 Procedures
  • 2:18 Examples
  • 3:02 Participants
  • 3:55 Materials
  • 4:51 Other Details
  • 5:25 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Devin Kowalczyk

Devin has taught psychology and has a master's degree in clinical forensic psychology. He is working on his PhD.

After a researcher has something they want to study, what is the process of figuring out how to study it? This lesson explores most of the elements involved in selecting and designing an experiment.

Planning Your Research

So, you have an idea of what you want to research, which is one of the first and biggest hurdles to get over. Now, we have to figure out how to research what you have thought up, which is a different kind of difficult. This lesson will explore the decision process on how to decide the research design. How a person researches something, as in the step-by-step process of it, is called the research methods. A methodology includes procedures, materials, and other details that will be used in the experiment.

You can think of the research methods like a recipe. You have a list of all of the materials you will need, the procedures on how to use the materials, and any other details. What decisions do you need to make for a good research design?


The first step in baking and in research is figuring out the steps to complete what you're doing. This is called the procedures, which are a written plan of what will happen to participants, in the sequential order of how it will occur. Like a recipe.

So, what are some of the procedures that a researcher can use? Keep in mind, each research idea is unique and we should consider the strengths and weaknesses of each procedure. We will look at examples of each after defining them.

Experiment is defined as manipulating a component to see if the manipulation has an effect on other aspects of the participant. This type of procedure has the strongest indicator of a cause-and-effect relationship, but you can't always control variables like age and gender.

Surveys are defined as collecting opinions and stories from people through questionnaires, interviews, or similar techniques. The strength here is you can often collect a lot of data about something relatively quickly. A weakness is that the statistics used aren't as strong as a true experiment.

Archival is defined as a process of reviewing already collected data and analyzing it. This is only usable if there is already data there, but it is extremely fast since most of the work is already done.

This is by no means an exhaustive set of possible procedures, and there are specifics that we don't have time to get into. But, these are the basic procedures a researcher can choose when collecting data.

Examples of Procedures

An example of a true experiment might be looking at how much alcohol affects a person's ability to drive. If I give group A one beer, group B one shot, and group C nothing, how impaired are their driving abilities after drinking or not drinking?

An example of a survey could be looking at what the student body thinks of the changes made by administrators at their university. Your research assistants could go out across the campus and collect opinions and thoughts from multiple people.

An example of an archival study might be examining in what part of the city a police officer is most likely to be injured. The researcher would analyze where officers were injured to determine if there is a particular area of danger.


Now that you know how you're going to collect your data, you have to consider whom you will be studying. A participant is an individual who takes part in a study. Who would be good to be in your study? Participants are a lot like the ingredients you need to bake something, the things you need to go out and find.

If you are running the experiment where you see how much alcohol influences a person's driving, it would probably not be wise to try and recruit teenagers. By giving alcohol to minors, you are breaking the law and that isn't good.

If you're conducting a survey, the one about the student body's view of the changes, your participants would need to be from the school in question. Students from that school over yonder won't be able to tell you much.

With an archival research study, you really don't have participants. Other researchers may have, but you aren't working with them. You're examining the data after the procedure has been done.

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