Research Design Guide



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Outline – Each section of a research design outline should have at least one to three paragraphs. These paragraphs will form the skeleton of your final design. While provisional in nature, the more substantive the outline, the better able you and the reader will be able to visualize the strengths and gaps of the overall design.



  • Give
    a broad overview of other scholar’s approaches and findings related to
    the topic or question.
  • Provide
    a substantial list of authors and corresponding titles of works that you
    have already identified as being useful to your research.
  • Group
    these authors and articles or books and demonstrate your knowledge of
    their work. Previous research on a given topic is usually anchored on identifiable
    blocks of methods, themes/approaches, institutions, and/or theaters of
    actions. You should identify these pre-existing blocks and describe them
    with reference to your authors. For example, research that focuses on electoral
    outcomes of racism or sexism are likely to be methodologically similar, and
    likewise for research focusing on environmental aspects of oppression. Some
    studies will hinge on policy analysis and theoretical frameworks, while others
    will focus on experimental interventions and tests. Different types of research
    methods and themes are listed below for your reference.
  • Examples of methods and

    • Methods
      • Qualitative
        • Historical,
          legalistic, institutional, case study, survey response, comparative analysis,
          ethnography, textual analysis, theoretical, policy analysis, inductive,
          deductive, descriptive, etc.
  • Quantitative
    • Linear
      or multiple regression, longitudinal descriptions of certain variables,
      correlational model testing, experimental pre and post-test interventions, etc.
  • Themes
    or approaches

    • Themes
      • ideology,
        power, justice, common good, order, liberty, conflict resolution,
        representation, collective decision-making, etc.
    • Approaches
      • rational
        choice, pluralism, feminism, race, ethnicity, consciousness, separate
        institutions/powers, etc.
    • Identify the institutions
      or theaters of action that research focuses on

      • Institutions
        • Congress,
          executive branch, presidency, courts, agencies and bureaucracies, schools,
    • Theaters of action
      • media,
        parties, interest groups, Constitution, elections & voting, etc.
  • Below
    you will find excerpts from a literature review. Power and technology
    are its themes. Gender is one of its signal approaches. It deals indirectly
    with the institution of public schools and their students. Social
    media is an important theater of action of. Two typologies or blocks are
    used to conceptualize prior research, these being bullies and the other
    being victims. The review next looks at the relation between
    these types. In terms of method, the reviewed literature is mostly descriptive
    and based on individual (students) or institutional (e.g., colleges) survey
  • Adapted and edited excerpts
    follow in italics:Cyberbullying is a new
    social phenomenon today. It can often leave students unable to escape their
    bullies and leave them feeling alone and helpless. Faucher, Jackson, and
    Cassidy (2014) performed a study on 1,925 students across four Canadian
    universities that found 24.1 percent of students had been the victims of
    cyberbullying over the last twelve months…

The types
of people who bully
An important factor when analyzing cyberbullying is trying to understand the
types of people who are the aggressors. The first thing that needs to be
discussed when analyzing this is the simple matter of gender when it comes to
who is generally the aggressor. Slonje and Smith (2008) found that when it
comes to cyberbullying males are more often than not the aggressors with males
being reported as the cyberbully far more often than females…

The types
of people who are victims
. Researchers have also conducted various studies on the
types of people who are cyberbullied, or what is often referred to as “cybervictomology”.
Abeele et al. (2013) conducted a study that concluded the gender of victims
varied greatly depending on the form of cyberbullying. Abeele et al. (2013)
found that males are more likely to be on the receiving end of direct
cyberbullying while females are more likely to be the victims of indirect
cyberbullying such as online gossip among peers…

relationship between bully and victim
. The relationship between aggressor
and victim is also something that has been heavily researched among professionals.
Beran and Li (2007) conducted a study that involved 432 middle school students
and concluded that just under half of the students had been victims of
cyberbullying as well as traditional bullying. This is true across multiple
studies. Wegge et al. (2014) also concluded that people who were bullied in
traditional manners had a much higher likelihood to become victims of

  • Adapted
    from Maxwell, Tyler (year unk.), “Cyberbullying: How Physical Intimidation
    Influences the Way People are Bullied,” a student of the University of West
  • Accessed


  • With
    the literature review complete, provide your hypothesis. This hypothesis either
    (1) states the relationship between an independent and a dependent variable or
    (2) applies a new framework, or an old framework to a new situation, to better
    explain a previously observed relationship between variables (more accurately,
    more completely, more extensively and inter-relationally, etc.).
  • Adapted and edited excerpts follow in italics:
    • Higher exposure to physical and social bullying among young, school-age students or any gender correlates to higher instances of these students being victims of cyber-bullying. Additionally, due to the pervasive nature and methods of cyberbullying, which include far-flung audiences and which gain a kind of permanence in the cyber world, more cyber-bullying activates (mostly boys and young men) to engage in direct, physical, and violent bullying in the real world. This in turn creates more victims who are predisposed to be bullied in both the physical and cyber worlds. Adapted from Maxwell, Tyler (year unk.), “Cyberbullying: How Physical Intimidation Influences the Way People are Bullied,” a student of the University of West Florida.Accessed at
  • The focus on the
    relationship between imperial state structures and American political
    development provides the basis for challenging prevalent notions of the
    exceptional weaknesses of the 19th century American state. Like other 19th
    century states, the U.S. national government built state capacity to enforce
    its authority over expansive territory and the populations inhabiting it.
    Further, showing the foundational relationship between American state
    institutions – particularly the U.S. Army, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and
    the General Land Office – and imperial systems of tutelage helps to reframe and
    explain the pervasive effects of anti-egalitarian coalitions (i.e., “white”
    nationalist and male-dominated institutional orders) in early American nation-building.
    from Heumann, Stefan (2009), The Tutelary Empire: State- and Nation-Building
    in the 19th Century United States, Ph.D. Dissertation,
    University of Pennsylvania.


  • Describe your theoretical approach or type of analysis, if applicable (feminist, Marxist, Freudian, etc.). Discuss the types of sources used (primary or secondary texts, interviews, surveys, personal notes, etc.).
  • Explain the details of your methods. For example: how you made measurements; the concentrations and amounts you used; how you selected your research subjects; psychological tests used; a copy of your survey questionnaire; an explanation of statistics used; a definition of your focus in terms of historical period or framework; etc.
  • It is often important to think about and attempt to understand research problems from an interdisciplinary perspective. For example, if you are a political science student studying the rhetorical strategies used by female incumbents in state legislature campaigns, theories about the use of language could be derived not only from political science but also linguistics, communication studies, philosophy, psychology, and, in this particular case, feminist studies. Building theoretical frameworks based on the postulates and hypotheses developed in other disciplinary contexts can be both enlightening and an effective way to be more engaged in the research topic.
    • Adapted from the University of Southern California’s “Research Guides.”
    • Accessed at
  • Explain any limitations that your study has in terms of the reliability and applicability of the results.
    • From the Faculty Mentor Program of the University of California at San Diego.
    • Accessed at

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