How to formulate a research strategy?

A research strategy refers to the step-by-step plan of action that gives direction to the researcher’s thought process. It enables a researcher to conduct the research systematically and on schedule. The main purpose is to introduce the principal components of the study such as research topic, areas, major focus, research design and finally the research methods.

An appropriate strategy has to be selected on the basis of the following:

  • Research questions.
  • Research objectives.
  • Amount of the time available.
  • Resources at researcher’s disposal.
  • Philosophical underpinnings of the researcher.

Types of research strategies

Research strategy helps a researcher choose the right data collection and the analysis procedure. Thus, it is of utmost importance to choose the right strategy while conducting the research. The following section will focus on the different types of strategies that can be used.

Types of research strategy
Figure 1: Types of research strategy
  • Qualitative: This strategy is generally used when to understand the underlying reasons or the opinion of the people on certain facts or a problem. It does not involve numerical data. It provides insights into the research problem and hence helps in achieving the research objectives. Various methods that can be used include interviews, observations, open-ended surveys and focus group discussions.
  • Quantitative: It involves the collection of primary or secondary data which is in numerical form. Under this strategy, the researcher can collect the data by using questionnaires, polls and the surveys or through secondary sources. This strategy mainly focuses on the when, where, what and how often a specific phenomenon occurs.
  • Descriptive: This is generally used when the researcher wants to describe a particular situation. This involves observing and describing the behaviour patterns of either an individual, community or any group. One thing that distinguishes it from other forms of research strategies is that subjects are observed in a completely unchanged environment. Under this approach surveys, observations and case studies are mainly used to collect the data and to understand the specific set of variables.
  • Analytical: This involves the use of the already available information. Here the researcher in an attempt to understand the complex problem set, studies and analyses the available data. It majorly concerns with the cause and effect relationship. The scientifically based problem-solving approaches mainly use this strategy.
  • Action: This strategy aims at finding solutions to an immediate problem. It is generally applied by an agency, company or by the government in order to address a particular problem and find possible solutions to it. For example, finding which strategy could best workout to motivate physically challenged students.
  • Basic: According to this strategy no generalizations are made in order to understand the subject in a better and precise way. Thus, it involves investigation and the analysis of a phenomenon. Although their findings are not directly applicable in the real world, they work towards enhancing the knowledge base.  
  • Critical: It works towards analyzing the claims regarding a particular society. For example, a researcher can focus on any conclusion or the theory made regarding a particular society or the culture and test it empirically through a survey or experiment.  
  • Interpretive: this strategy is similar to the qualitative research strategy. However, rather than using hypothesis testing, interpretation is done through the sense-making process. In simple terms, this strategy uses human experience in order to understand the phenomena.
  • Exploratory: It is mainly used to gain insights into the problem or regarding certain situations but does works towards providing the solution to the research problem. This research strategy is generally undertaken when there is very few or no earlier study on the research topic.
  • Predictive: It deals with developing an understanding of the future of the research problem and has its foundation based on the probability. This is generally very popular among companies and organizations.

Difference between the types of research strategy

StrategyDefinitionPurposeExample aim
Qualitative research strategyA method of observation to collect non-numerical data.It is useful when the researcher wants to understand the underlying reasons or the opinion of the people on certain facts or the problem.An in-depth analysis of perceptions of occupants in an old-age home regarding the quality of service.  
Quantitative research strategyResearches involving collection of numerical data in the form of surveys or through secondary sources.To investigate when, where, what and how often a specific phenomenon occurs.  A survey on the effectiveness of online marketing strategies on consumer satisfaction of Unilever in India.
Descriptive research strategyThis majorly involves observing and describing the behavior pattern of either an individual, community or any group to be specific.Generally used when the researcher wants to describe a particular situation.To understand the social status of working women in a specific region of a country.
Analytical research strategyThis form of research strategy involves the use of already available information.To examine the cause and effect relationship between two or more variables.To understand the impact of certain policy decision on the  gross domestic product of an economy.
Action research strategyIt aims at finding solutions to an immediate problem.Applied by agencies, companies or governments in order to address a problem and find possible solutions.Determining which strategy would work best to motivate physically challenged students.  
Basic research strategyInvolves investigation and the analysis of an phenomena.Works towards enhancing the existing knowledge base.   To identify the reason behind the breakout of certain epidemic in certain region.
Critical research strategyThe strategy that focuses on critically analyzing prior findings of a research.Works towards analyzing the claims regarding a particular society or phenomenon.To analyze the claims made by another study regarding the temperature conditions in the next 10 years.
Interpretive research strategyThis strategy uses human experience in order to understand a research problem.  Applicable when the researcher wants to understand the underlying reasons or the opinion of the people on certain facts or the problem.To determine and analyse the problems faced by the women in their society or household.
Exploratory research strategyUsed to gain insights onto the problem or regarding certain situations but works towards providing the solution to the research problem.Undertaken when there is very few or no earlier study on the research topic.  To understand in depth the problems faced by working women in Northern India.
Predictive research strategyThis form of research strategy deals with developing understanding on the future of a research problem and has its foundation based on probability.Used for studies and problems that require prediction of future trends.To predict the future sales or increase in customer before the launch of certain new product.

How to write a research strategy

The main components of a research strategy include the research paradigm, research design, research method and sampling strategy. It should be in a form such that your research paradigm should guide your research design. Which in turn should lead to the appropriate selection of the research methods along with the correct sampling strategy. It is applicable in different kinds of researches such as exploratory, explanatory and descriptive.

Step1: Defining the research paradigm

This involves a basic set of beliefs that guides the researcher regarding the way of performing the research. There are various types of research paradigms, including positivism, post-positivism or constructivism.

Step 2: Defining the research design

The research paradigm and the type of research mainly guides the choice of research design. For example, some researches that include experiments lean quantitative research design. On the other hand, exploratory research in social sciences often uses a qualitative research design. This must be done very carefully because the research design will eventually impact the choice of research method and sampling strategy.

Step 3: Defining research methods

This step helps the researcher to explain the potential methods that can be used for carrying out the research. The choice here also depends on the research paradigm and research design selected in the above steps. For example, if a researcher followed a constructivist paradigm using qualitative research design, then data collection method can be interviews, observation or focus group discussions.

Step 4: Defining the sampling strategy

This step involves specifying the population, sample size and sampling type for a study. In the population, the researcher defines the profile of respondents and justifies their suitability for the study. For defining the sample size, a specific formula can be applied.  Finally, there are many sampling types for a researcher to choose from.

Things to keep in mind while writing research strategies

As there exists different types of research strategies, for the researcher in order to embark according to the study needs he or she must identify the three main questions in order to write an appropriate strategy.

Is it suitable for the research aim?

As shown in the figure above the first thing that needs to be kept in mind is that the strategy should be suitable with respect to the purpose of the study i.e. it should rather support the researcher with finding the answers to the research questions which are under the consideration.

For example, a case study may be considered as the right choice when investigating the social relationship in some specific setting, while it might be probably inappropriate when it comes to measuring the attitude of the large population.

Feasibility as per available sources

The second point that needs to be considered, is that it should be feasible from the practical point of view. The researcher should formulate the strategy so that he or she had complete access to data sources. Also, some of the research strategies like the action research which are generally highly time-consuming, thus the researcher must consider all these aspects while preparing the strategy.

Ethical considerations

Also, another point that needs to be considered, is that the researcher should ensure that the strategy chosen must be followed in a responsible way. For example, in the social science research participants of the study should be allowed to remain anonymous.

Ashni Walia
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