The Four Types of Research Design – Everything You Need to Know

When you do your research, you should be clear about what you want to accomplish and how you want to accomplish it. A good research design enables you to collect accurate and reliable data in order to draw valid conclusions.

Research design used to test various beauty products

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In this blog post, we’ll outline the key characteristics of four common types of research design, along with real-life examples from UnderArmor, Carmex, and others. Then, you can easily choose the right approach for your project.

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Research design involves selecting the right methodology, selecting the most appropriate data collection methods, and creating a plan (or framework) for analyzing the data. In short, a good research design helps us to structure our research.

Marketers use different types of research design when conducting Research,

There are four general types of research design – descriptive, correlational, experimental and clinical designs. Let’s take a look at each in more detail.

Four Types of Research Design

Researchers use different designs to meet different research objectives. Here, we’ll discuss how to choose the right type, the benefits and use cases of each.

Research can also be classified quantitative or qualitative higher level. Some experiments demonstrate both qualitative and quantitative characteristics.


An experimental design is used when the researcher wishes to examine how variables interact with each other. The researcher manipulates one variable (the independent variable) and observes the effect on another variable (the dependent variable).

In other words, the researcher seeks to test a causal relationship between two or more variables.

In marketing, an example of experimental research would be a comparison of the effects of a television advertisement versus an online advertisement conducted in a controlled environment (such as a laboratory). The purpose of the research is to test which advertisement gets more attention among people of different age groups, gender etc.

Another example is the study of the effect of music on productivity. A researcher assigns participants to one of two groups – those who listen to music while working and those who don’t – and measures their productivity.

The main advantage of an experimental design is that it allows the researcher to make causal relationships between variables.

One limitation: This research requires a great deal of control over the environment and participants, making it difficult to replicate in the real world. Besides, it is quite expensive.

best for: Testing a cause-and-effect relationship (that is, the effect of an independent variable on a dependent variable).


A correlational design examines the relationship between two or more variables without interfering with the process.

The correlational design allows the analyst to observe natural relationships between variables. This results in data that is more reflective of real-world conditions.

For example, marketers can use correlational designs to examine the relationship between brand loyalty and customer satisfaction. Specifically, the researcher will look for patterns or trends in the data to see if there is a relationship between these two entities.

Similarly, you can study the relationship between physical activity and mental health. Here analysts will ask participants to complete surveys about their physical activity levels and mental health status. The data will show how the two variables are related.

best for: Understanding the extent to which two or more variables are related to each other in the real world.


Descriptive research refers to a systematic process of observing and describing what a subject does without affecting it.

Methods include surveys, interviews, case studies, and observation. The purpose of descriptive research is to gain an in-depth understanding of a phenomenon and when/what/where to respond.

SaaS companies use descriptive design to understand how customers interact with specific features. The findings can be used to find patterns and bottlenecks.

For example, product managers can use screen recording by Hotjar to observe in-app user behavior. This way, the team can understand exactly what is happening at a certain stage of the user journey and act accordingly.

Brand24, a social listening tool, tripled its sign-up conversion rate From 2.56% to 7.42%, thanks to the detection of friction points in the sign-up form via screen recording.

Different types of research design: Descriptive research example.

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best for: Gathering unbiased data that reveals behavior or recurring events.


Clinical research determines the root cause of the problem and finds the most effective solution. It is often used in marketing to identify areas for improvement or potential opportunities for growth.

Clinical research design consists of three phases:

  • Inception, which includes data collection and problem definition.
  • Diagnostics, which includes data analysis, hypothesis testing, and setting objectives.
  • Solutions, which define the best possible solution.

In product teams, a diagnostic design will involve analyzing customer feedback and identifying areas where a company can improve. This will help identify where a product offering needs to be changed – pricing, missing features, customer service, etc.

Diagnostic research provides accurate diagnosis of the problem and identifies areas of improvement.

best for: Understanding the underlying causes of a problem and how to overcome it.

research design example

Let’s take a look at how major brands employ different types of research designs. In most cases, companies combine multiple methods to reach a comprehensive overview of a problem and find solutions.

Under Armour

Research Design Type: Underarmour

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UnderArmour doubled its market share among running shoes, citing diagnostic and descriptive research.

The team aimed to create a successful product by continually improving their shoes in response to real-time feedback from athletes. To do this, the company sent free shoes to more than 10,000 athletes. using the qualtrix, The company surveyed the participants for their feedback.

Then, with all the insights gathered, the team iterated their design. Like this UA HOVR™ Cushioned Running Shoes was born.

The resulting product received a 2019 Runner’s World Recommendation Award.

Pro Tip: Use descriptive research design to tailor your product to customer needs, observe their natural behavior, and address feedback.


Research Design Example, Carmex Labs Qualitative Techniques-Enabled Research

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Carmex Labs teams up with research company MRR Measure customer reactions to a lip-care company’s packaging and product, The goal was to find the reason for the low sales in the newly launched market.

The team conducted a live, online focus group. Participants were shown product samples, while AI and NLP natural language processing identified key themes in customer feedback.

This helped uncover the major reasons for the poor performance and directed changes to the packaging.


Research Design Example, Tweezerman

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Tweezerman, a beauty brand, turned to descriptive research design to track its brand health and validate product ideas.

tweezerman used survey monkey audience To collect quantitative consumer feedback and inform its global business strategy. This approach helped Tweezerland Validate 10 out of 50 products and gain an in-depth understanding of their audience.

remember: Service do market researchAll you have to do is launch a simple survey with the right targeting.

Getting Started with Research Design

Research design is your blueprint for answering questions through data gathering. Done correctly, it provides granular insight into an issue and informs business decisions.

To get started, map out your queries, define your problem, and think about what data you want to get as a result. Then, choose the right research design method.

Now you are all set!

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