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Research Design

Research Design
Creating Robust Approaches for the Social Sciences

  • Stephen Gorard - Durham University, UK, The University of Birmingham, UK

February 2013 | 232 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
Research design is of critical importance in social research, despite its relative neglect in many methods resources. Early consideration of design in relation to research questions leads to the elimination or diminution of threats to eventual research claims, by encouraging internal validity and substantially reducing the number of alternative explanations for any finite number of research 'observations'.

This new book: discusses the nature of design; gives an introduction to design notation; offers a flexible approach to new designs; looks at a range of standard design models; and presents craft tips for real-life problems and compromises. Most importantly, it provides the rationale for preferring one design over another within any given context. Each section is illustrated with case studies of real work and concludes with suggested readings and topics for discussion in seminars and workshops, making it an ideal textbook for postgraduate research methods courses.

Based on the author's teaching on the ESRC Doctoral Training Centre "Masters in Research Methods" at the University of Birmingham, and his ongoing work for the ESRC Researcher Development Initiative, this is an essential text for postgraduate researchers and academics. There is no book like Research Design on the market that addresses all of these issues in an easy to comprehend style, for those who want to design research and make critical judgements about the designs of others.

What Is Research Design?
Introducing Designs in the Cycle of Research
Identifying Researchable Questions
Warranting Research Claims
The Nature of Causal Claims
Identifying the Sample or Cases
Comparing for Comparative Claims
Matters of Timing and Sequence
Evaluating Controlled Interventions
Further Designs for Evaluation
Challenges for Validity
How Big Is a Difference?
A Second Principle of Ethics
Revisiting the Need for Robust Design

This is a landmark text in the neglected field of research design. Gorard provides a unique introduction to planning and executing a research project that is both grounded in well-established traditions and radical in its approach. Perhaps the most important methods text published in many years
Patrick White
University of Leicester

For the first time this book has made me realize the need and worth of doing real social science research. Page after page made me think clearly about research design and its essential importance. The book will have an everlasting impact on my view of any research project. I must say that it is the only book I have ever come across that reads so simply and so naturally about research design in social sciences. This book is surely the 'bible' of social science research for me
Nadia Siddiqui
Lecturer, Fatima Jinnah Women's University, Pakistan

This well-elaborated book does in no sense exclude traditional views on how to plan, organize and execute a research project, but tries to highlight the new approaches that can help a researcher develop his project as authentically as possible via the appropriate choice of the design for his research. The intended audience of this book can be wide as it can vary from beginners such as students; as it serves as an excellent textbook, teachers who can employ it in teaching, tutoring and working in his research; or workers in the field of research in social sciences.

Nadia Idri
Methodspace Book Reviews Group

Research design is an essential element of any research that other important elements of research are reliant on it... Gorard, in this book, has provided a comprehensive view of the research design that may work as a guide for researchers through the journey of research.

Ibrahim Al-Jubari
Methodspace Book Reviews Group


It is rare to find a clearly written social science research book that is entirely generalizable across the social sciences and even more rare to find one that is genuinely enjoyable to read. However, with his new book entitled 'Research Design: Creating Robust Approaches for the Social Sciences', Stephen Gorard has managed to achieve the seemingly impossible. The book not only provides an essential introduction to research design in the socials sciences for new researchers, but also acts as a good reminder of best practice design for seasoned researchers. Best of all, throughout the entire book, Gorard provides clear instructions, examples, and rationale for the various types and components of research design.

Barbara Cooke
PhD candidate at the University of Cambridge Institute of Criminology

The book combines being a good read for experienced researchers who want to remind themselves of how to design good quality, rigorous, research, with being an excellent introduction for those new to the field in how to plan and execute inherently useful research for any evidence base. It also strongly emphasises the ethics of research – why we should be clear about the purpose of the research and how we will analyse the data (not just data dredging for results). The book gives several examples of research that has been badly designed, and which could be damaging. These examples demonstrate the importance of getting it right, and the book gives the tools to do just that.

Catherine Owens, evidence and evaluation adviser, College of Pricing
Social Research Association - Research Matters

Great practical introduction

Mr Richard David Kenyon
Accounting, Aston University
January 22, 2024

Very strong and clear with a positivist slant

Mr Richard David Kenyon
Accounting, Aston University
January 22, 2024

An excellent well-laid out textbook reference in research methodology, highly recommendable to students and lecturers.

Mrs Josephine D Morris
Interdiscipline, Winchester University
March 14, 2023

highly essential for the design of any research protocol for both novice and experienced researchers

Mr Emmanuel Asante
Faculty of Medicine & Health Sciences, Nottingham University
March 1, 2016

Good basic guide. To be read with caution.

Dr Sean McCusker
Sch of Health,Community & Educ Studies, Northumbria University
February 18, 2016

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 1

Stephen Gorard

Stephen Gorard is the Professor of Education Research at the University of Birmingham, Academician of the Academy of Social Sciences, introducer for the ESRC Grant Awarding Panel A, and a methods expert for the US Institute of Education Science panel on Mathematics and Science. His research concerns the robust evaluation of education as a lifelong society-wide process, focused on issues of equity and effectiveness. He has successfully conducted over 70 projects funded by government and other sources, and is the author of hundreds of research books and articles. His work appears regularly in the media, and is much used by local and... More About Author

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ISBN: 9781446249024
ISBN: 9781446249017

SAGE Research Methods is a research methods tool created to help researchers, faculty and students with their research projects. SAGE Research Methods links over 175,000 pages of SAGE’s renowned book, journal and reference content with truly advanced search and discovery tools. Researchers can explore methods concepts to help them design research projects, understand particular methods or identify a new method, conduct their research, and write up their findings. Since SAGE Research Methods focuses on methodology rather than disciplines, it can be used across the social sciences, health sciences, and more.