Chapter 7: Designing a Research Plan
A. Checklist for Assessing Practicality
By running through the following questions, you can quickly assess the practicality of your methodological plan:
1. Do you have/can you develop necessary expertise?
Interviewing, observing, theorizing, surveying, statistical analysis – various methods of data collection and analysis will require certain skills. And while you can develop new skills, time / interest can be an issue. Remember - competence is not a luxury. Your skills or lack thereof, will affect the quality of the data you collect and the credibility of the findings you generate.
2. Is your method ethical? Is it likely to get required ethics approval?
A clear criterion of any research design is that it is ethical; and ethicality is likely to be audited by an ethics committee. If a study calls for interaction with people, it will often require formal workplace and/ or university ethics committee approval. Ethical studies take responsibility for integrity in the production of knowledge and ensures that the mental, emotional, and physical welfare of respondents is protected.
3. Do you have required access to data?
A major challenge for researchers is gaining access to data. Whether you plan to explore documents, conduct interviews or surveys, or engage in observation, the best-laid plans are worthless if you can’t find a way to access people, places and/ or records.
4. Is your time frame realistic?
If you have not given yourself long enough to do what your design demands, you are likely to: miss deadlines; compromise your study by changing your methods mid-stream; do a shoddy job with your original methods; compromise time that should be dedicated to other aspects of your job/ life; or finally, not completing your study at all.
5. Do you have required financial/organizational support?
Whether you need to cover the cost of materials, postage, transcription etc., or the cost of bringing in a professional researcher to help with data collection or analysis, you will need finances. It is important to develop a realistic budget for your study. Research into any problem, no matter how worthy, will not be practical, or in fact, possible if you can’t cover costs. Also make sure that, if appropriate, you have organizational support for time to be dedicated to your project. Not being able to find time can be as debilitating to your study as not being able to find money.
B. Checklist for Fundamental Methods Questions
- Who do you want to be able to speak about?
- Who do you plan to speak to/observe?
- What is the physical domain of your sample?
- Are settings relevant to the credibility of your methods?
- How do your methods fit into your time frame?
- Is timing relevant to the credibility of your methods?
- How will I collect my data?
- How will I implement my methods?
- What will you look for/what will you ask?