We all know you: Nobel laureates are often portrayed as beings of another star who are intellectually far superior to the “normal mortals” (Bodendorf et al. 2010). They often present extremely complex issues in an extremely complicated way. But all this is not a witchcraft, because it only depends on the correct procedure and the correct presentation.

In this article I would like to help you how you build a research design for a thesis or research or even a very complex project. However, if you are currently looking for a topic for your research, then I recommend another article.

Reading tip: Find the topic for thethesis

Research methods

If you look at Wikipedia, a research method is defined as follows: In the sciences, research methods are methods and analytical techniques that serve to clarify scientific questions. In the social sciences in particular, the distinction between quantitative research methods and qualitative research methods is common.

Since a research design is nothing else, like a meaningful “line-up” of research methods, I would therefore like to give a brief overview of the different research methods. They are divided into qualitative and quantitative methods.

Reading tip: How do I classify my research scientifically?

Qualitative research

Qualitative research is trying to capture a previously unknown problem. Here, the researcher slowly “approaches” the object and, through the openness of the method, leaves room for the discovery of new facts. Basically, the idea is to let the object of the investigation, such as letting a project manager speak for himself and to listen a lot. Common methods are:

  • Interviews
  • Group discussion
  • Qualitative content analysis
  • Observation
  • Ethnography

Quantitative research

This method is based on facts and figures and follows a defined pattern. Methods and models for research must therefore be available at the outset. For example, it must be clear how to measure employee satisfaction. The data is used to use analytical methods such as significance tests, regression analysis, etc. hypotheses.

  • Survey
  • Analysis
  • Data collection
  • Experiments

Intermediate conclusion and method selection

Research does not, of course, have to be one-sided, but can consist of a mixture of both methods. The choice of methods depends to a large extent on the research object and also on the preference. I myself have used three methods in research, which I also master. It is not easy to apply every method perfectly, but to specialize in 2-3.

Tip: Don’t forget to limit your research design wisely!

Reading tips:

Research Design Structure

In the current illustration, the abstract shows the research design. You can see that, on the basis of a research question, common methods are being put together to produce a research result. This is, of course, very abstract, so I would like to give two examples.

Research design
Abstract structure of a research design (own presentation)

The next figure shows a research design for qualitative research. In this case, leaders’ challenges are examined and, together with executives, they are searched for solutions in a group discussion. It is then evaluated by creating a transcript from which specific statements are derived. I always recommend in the design in the small boxes the meaning, i.e. to transmit the goal of the method. On the one hand, the choice of the research method is justified and the meaning of the grouping is also clear.

Research design qualitative
Example development of a qualitative research design for the identification of management concepts (own presentation)

In contrast to the first graphic, you will find quantitative research here. This examines the current relationship between employee satisfaction and home office. So I choose a survey in which I query the current satisfaction in the job as well as the fact how much and whether home office is operated. Using regression analysis, I can examine the relationship between variables. For example, whether the number of home office days is related to job satisfaction.

Research design quantitative
Example development of a quantitative research design to determine the influence of employee satisfaction in the home office (own presentation)

Of course, the methods are not black and white. You can also combine qualitative and quantitative methods. For example, you can use a survey to determine hypotheses that you evaluate together in expert interviews. There are no limits to the combination.

PS: you can download the template for the design here

PPS: A template with topic finding can be found here.

Reading tip: Book tips on research

Special case: Grounded Theory

There are cases in which you deal with very complex topics that cannot be covered by literature. In such cases, the Grounded Theory helps. The Grounded Theory is derived inductively by systematic collection and analysis of data related to the object of investigation (Strauss and Corbin 1996, p. 7). Data collection, analysis and the resulting theory are arranged in a cycle that is passed several times as part of a research process (Bodendorf et al. 2010)

grounded theory example
Example of grounded theory (own representation)

In this example, you are looking for a research question and, in the first step, interviewing subjects about it. You then evaluate and analyze this information. Now plan the next step and interview subjects again in order to deepen the research results. Read more in an extra article.

Reading Tip: Grounded Theory

Conclusion: Tips Building Research Design

In this article, I explained the difference between qualitative and quantitative research methods. A research design can be created from this. The methods can be combined as desired and it should be clear to the reader, e.g. by means of the small boxes under this, why you take which methods and what the result is. Finally, I will show you an example of such a mixed method. In the first step, data is collected, which is evaluated with project managers. The research question would be: Is the lack of software equipment a success factor for projects? There are certainly many more possibilities and my tips should give a first orientation. In any case, take a look at my other book tips!

By the way, you are happy to include these illustrations in your thesis. A brief source note is sufficient. I like to release them. You can download the template here.

Research design-qualitative-quantitative
An example building of a qualitative and quantitative research design to determine the influence of software equipment on project success

Gibt es noch Fragen?

Falls es noch Fragen gibt, habe ich zwei Tipps. Ich habe meine Erfahrung aus 5 Jahren in der Betreuung von Abschlussarbeiten im Buch: "Empfehlungen für die Bachelor- und Masterarbeit" zusammengefasst. Dieses gibt es bei Springer und Amazon seit August 2020. Das Buch ist ein offzielles Fachbuch in kann damit zitiert werden. Weiterhin können Sie mich gerne mal anrufen. Hierzu einfach im Buchungssystem nach einen freien Termin schauen. Ich nehme mir jeden Monat einige Stunden Zeit um Studenten zu helfen.

Mein Tipp vor der Abgabe Ihrer Abschlussarbeit

Es lohnt sich immer eine Abschlussarbeit professionell Korrekturlesen oder auf Plagiat prüfen zu lassen. Der Vorteil ist, dass Sie dabei auch Feedback erhalten und den akademischen Sprachstil verbessern. Anbieter wie bspw. Scribbr helfen mit guten Preisen bei der Abschlussarbeit.

Genderhinweis: Ich habe zur leichteren Lesbarkeit die männliche Form verwendet. Sofern keine explizite Unterscheidung getroffen wird, sind daher stets sowohl Frauen, Diverse als auch Männer sowie Menschen jeder Herkunft und Nation gemeint. Lesen Sie mehr dazu.

Verwendete Quellen anzeigen

Bodendorf, F., Löffler, C., & Hofmann, J. (2010). Research methods in business informatics. Business Informatics, (1), 1-44.

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I blog about the impact of digitalization on our working environment. For this purpose, I present content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday work. I am a manager in an SME myself and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the chair of IT Management.

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