We all know you: Nobel Prize winners are often portrayed as beings from another planet who are intellectually far superior to “normal mortals” (Bodendorf et al. 2010). They often make extremely complex issues extremely complicated. But none of this is rocket science, because it all depends on the correct procedure and the correct presentation.
In this article I would therefore like to help you how to set up a research design for a thesis or a research or even a very complex project. However, if you are currently looking for a topic for your research, I recommend another article.
Reading tip: Find a topic for a thesis

Research methods

If you look in Wikipedia a research method is defined as follows: When Research methods In the sciences, processes and analysis techniques are used to clarify scientific questions. In the social sciences in particular, there is a distinction between quantitative Research methods and qualitative Research methods common.
Since a research design is nothing else than a meaningful “ stringing together “of research methods I would therefore like to give a brief overview of the various research methods. They are divided into qualitative and quantitative methods.
Reading tip: How do I classify my research scientifically?

Qualitative research

Qualitative research tries to capture a previously unknown problem. Here the researcher slowly “approaches” the object and, thanks to the openness of the method, leaves room for the discovery of new facts. Basically, the idea is to let the object of investigation, such as a project manager, have their own say and to listen a lot. Common methods are:

  • Interviews
  • Group discussion
  • Qualitative content analysis
  • observation
  • ethnography

Quantitative research

This method is geared towards facts and figures and follows a fixed pattern. Methods and models for research must therefore be available at the beginning. For example, it must be clear how to measure employee satisfaction. Using analysis methods such as significance tests, regression analysis, etc., hypotheses are derived from the data.

  • survey
  • Data analysis
  • Data collection
  • Experiments

Interim conclusion and choice of method

Of course, research does not have to be one-sided, but can consist of a mixture of both methods. The choice of methods depends heavily on the research object and also on the preference. I myself have used three methods in research, which I have also mastered. It is not easy to be able to use every method perfectly, but to specialize in 2-3.
Tip: don’t forget yours Sensibly limit research design !
Reading tips :

Research design structure

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

Abstract structure of a research design (own illustration)

The next figure shows a research design for qualitative research. In this case, challenges of executives are examined and approaches to solving them are sought together with executives in a group discussion. This is then evaluated by creating a transcript from which specific statements are derived. In the design, I always recommend the purpose of conveying the goal of the method in the small boxes. In this way, on the one hand, the choice of research method is justified and the meaning of the combination is clear.

Forschungsdesign qualitativ
Exemplary structure of a qualitative research design for the determination of leadership concepts (own illustration)

In contrast to the first graph, here is quantitative research. This examines the current relationship between employee satisfaction and home office. So I choose a survey in which I ask about the current job satisfaction on the one hand and how much and whether home office is operated. I can use regression analysis to examine the relationship between variables. For example, whether the number of home office days is related to job satisfaction.

Forschungsdesign quantitativ
Exemplary structure of a quantitative research design to determine the influence of employee satisfaction in the home office (own illustration)

Of course, the methods are not black and white. You are also welcome to combine qualitative and quantitative methods. So, for example, you can determine hypotheses from a survey, which you can use together in Expert interviews evaluate. There are actually no limits to the combination.
PS: You can download the template for the design here
PPS: A template with a topic can be found here.
Reading tip: Book tips on research

Special case: Grounded Theory

There are cases in which you are working on very complex topics that cannot be covered by literature. In such cases the grounded theory can help. The grounded theory is derived inductively through systematic collection and analysis of data related to the examination subject (Strauss and Corbin 1996, p. 7). Data collection, analysis and the emerging theory are arranged in a cycle that is run through several times as part of a research process (Bodendorf et al. 2010)

grounded theory beispiel
Example of Grounded Theory (own illustration)

In this example, you are looking for a research question and, in the first step, ask test subjects about it. You then evaluate and analyze this information. Now plan the next step and interview test subjects again to deepen the research results. Read more in a separate article.
Reading tip: Grounded Theory

Conclusion: Tips for 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 in any way and it should be clear to the reader, for example by means of the small boxes below, why you are using which methods and what the result is. Finally, I’ll show you an example of such a mixed method. In the first step, data is collected here, which is then evaluated with project managers. The research question would be: Is a lack of software equipment a success factor for projects? There are certainly many other options and my tips should provide an initial orientation. Definitely look too in my other book tips!
By the way, feel free to include these images in your thesis. A short one Source reference enough. I am happy to share this with you. You can download the template here.

Exemplary structure of a qualitative and quantitative research design to determine the influence of software equipment on the project success

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Verwendete Quellen anzeigen

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

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Dr. Dominic Lindner

I blog about the influence of digitalization on our working world. For this purpose, I provide content from science in a practical way and show helpful tips from my everyday professional life. I am an executive in an SME and I wrote my doctoral thesis at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg at the Chair of IT Management.

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