There are several types of research designs:

  • Action Research Design: Initiated to solve an immediate problem or a reflective process of progressive problem solving led by individuals working with others in teams or as part of a “community of practice” to improve the way they address issues and solve problems.
  • Case Studies: An empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context; when the boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly evident; and in which multiple sources of evidence are used
  • Causal Design: The investigation into an issue or topic that looks at the effect of one thing or variable on another.
  • Cohort Design: A longitudinal study (panel study) that sample a cohort (a group of people who share a defining characteristic, typically who experienced a common event in a selected period, such as birth or graduation), performing a cross-section at intervals through time.
  • Cross-Sectional Design: A type of observational study that analyzes data collected from a population, or a representative subset, at a specific point in time—that is,cross-sectional data (also known as across-sectional analysis, transversal study, or prevalence study).
  • Descriptive Design: A study designed to depict the participants in an accurate way. The three main ways to collect this information are: Observational, defined as a method of viewing and recording the participants. Case study, defined as an in-depth study of an individual or group of individuals.
  • Experimental Design: A blueprint of the procedure that enables the researcher to test his hypothesis by reaching valid conclusions about relationships between independent and dependent variables. It refers to the conceptual framework within which the experiment is conducted.
  • Exploratory Design: A research conducted for a problem that has not been studied more clearly, establishes priorities, develops operational definitions and improve the final research design. Exploratory research helps determine the best research design, data-collection method and selection of subjects.
  • Historical Design: The purpose of a historical research design is to collect, verify, and synthesize evidence from the past to establish facts that defend or refute a hypothesis.
  • Longitudinal Design: An observational research method in which data is gathered for the same subjects repeatedly over a period of time. Longitudinal research projects can extend over years or even decades. In a longitudinal cohort study, the same individuals are observed over the study
  • Meta Analysis Design: A subset of systematic reviews; a method for systematically combining pertinent qualitative and quantitative study data from several selected studies to develop a single conclusion that has greater statistical power. To provide a more complex analysis of harms, safety data, and benefits.
  • Mixed Method Design: A methodology for conducting research that involves collecting, analyzing and integrating quantitative (e.g., experiments, surveys) and qualitative (e.g., focus groups, interviews) research
  • Observational Design: A type of correlational (i.e., non-experimental)research in which a researcher observes ongoing behavior. There are a variety of types of observational research, each of which has both strengths and weaknesses.
  • Philosophical Design: Study aims to present work by authors who conceive of philosophy as a cooperative scientific enterprise. It clarifies meanings, make values manifest, identify ethics, and studies the nature of knowledge.
  • Sequential Design: A combination of longitudinal and cross-sectional designs, by following several differently aged cohorts over time.


Learn More:

USC Research Guides:

Types of Research Designs:

What is Research Design?:

Understanding Research Study Designs: