This week we learned how research designs are different and help us

Aug 7, 2023


This week we learned how research designs are different and help us to objectively study nursing problems; the key is to decide which type of research and design will serve the purpose or intent to find a solution. After completing Week 4 readings and lesson, answer the following:

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  • Reflect on your learning about Quantitative and Qualitative research; share two ways that helped you understand how they are different.
  • Choose one category of study design that you found interesting and describe; include what you learned about the design and how you believe it can help study nursing problems.
  • Refer back to your clinical nursing priority problem and evidence you located for your week 3 assignment (CAUTI’s) : 
    • The nursing-evidenced practice (NEBP) committee has requested for you to make a recommendation to the team: Describe the type of research and the design that you believe would be the best way to study your problem. Discuss your rationale. (the problem you will need to discuss relates to Catheter Acquired Urinary Tract Infections)

****please include 2 APA citations, and no fewer than 3 paragraphs, please*****


An easy way to think about the word research design is to think about a map. When planning a trip, it is always a good idea to review the ways or routes to arrive at the correct destination. Like any map, there are generally two to three suggested routes outlining the ways to travel to get to where you want to go. With research designs, there are different ways to choose the best plan/way on how to accomplish/achieve an answer to the problem/issue. Just like maps, there may or may not be the best route; rather, some suggested routes for your journey. The key is to choose your best way ahead of time and then plan your journey following the way accordingly. Same with research designs—you have options.

The research design flows from the research question, the purpose/intent, and outlines the plan for the study that will answer the research question. The design identifies the major components of the study. It is important to remember that there is no one best design for a research study. For example, a quantitative experimental design is considered the gold standard and may produce a stronger level of evidence, but it may be a poor fit for the purpose of the study. Therefore, considerations of design selection include:


  • Intent of the research question (plays a key role).
  • Problem, question, intent.
  • What do you want to know from the study?
  • What is the purpose for the study?
    • Select a design that will help accomplish the purpose
  • Design plan details (can it be implemented). 
    (Houser, 2018)

For more design decision and considerations, explore chapter 6 of our textbook for details.

Classifications/Approaches to Research and Designs

As a baccalaureate nurse, understanding basic design elements and scientific processes is an expectation (AACN, 2008; QSEN 2018). It is important to know there are two broad types of classifications or approaches used to acquire or generate knowledge for nursing practice. The two overall research classifications/approaches are:

  • Quantitative Research
  • Qualitative Research

These two classifications/approaches for research designs are the most important and stem from our two paradigms; simply stated ways of thinkingbeliefs, or views (Houser, 2018). It is essential to know the differences in these two types of research classifications for designs as these use differing research methods to generate different types of knowledge useful for our practice of nursing. Research designs originate within one of these two types of classifications:



This type of research is based on a traditional, formal, objective, scientific approach in which numbers (numerical data) are collected and used to produce knowledge or information (Houser, 2018; Polit & Beck, 2018). Overall, quantitative research involves the following:

  • Empirical, structured, controlled methods
  • Variables which represents characteristics of interest
  • Variables of interest can be measured in a reliable, valid way (see variables Houser, 2018, p. 137-139)
  • An objective researcher
  • Researcher controlled setting/context/protocols
  • Subject selection and protocols to help eliminate bias/error
  • Numbers/Numerical data collection, measurement, and numerical reporting of data
  • Statistically analyzed results/analytical data analysis/inferential statistics 
    (Houser, 2018; Polit & Beck, 2018)

Quantitative research deals with measurements; below are some of the differing categories of Quantitative Research Designs:

Quantitative Research Designs

  • Experimental design -tests cause and effect
    • Considered the gold standard
    • Less common in nursing studies
    • Involves the researcher manipulating variables to determine the cause and effect; used to answer questions about the effectiveness of an intervention
    • Often referred to as randomized controlled trials (RCT) or clinical trials
    • Involves random assignment of subjects to groups—
      • Control group—no intervention
      • Experimental group—receives the intervention
    • High level of control, rigorous sample/subject selection
    • Determines cause and effect 
      (Houser, 2018; Polit & Beck, 2018)
  • Quasi-experimental design
    • More common in nursing studies.
    • Mimic experimental except for the selection and assignment of subjects.
    • Used to examine causal relationships or determine the effect similar to true experimental; however, lacks rigor and control over the manipulation of treatment, management of the setting, and/or selection of the subjects.
    • Key difference from an experimental design-does not randomly assign subjects to groups.
    • Uses convenience sampling
    • Comparison groups are already existing (not a true control group). 
      (Houser, 2018; Polit & Beck, 2018)
  • Non-experimental designs-a broad range of studies that are not able to test for a cause and effect
    • Descriptive design-studies to describe a particular situation or event that already exists; sometimes will be used to explore new areas
    • Correlational design-studies examining an existing relationship between variables
    • Predictive design-studies that examine for an relationship in which one variable can be used to predict another variable (such as risk factors for certain diseases) 
      (Houser, 2018; Polit & Beck, 2018)


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This type of research is based on a naturalistic belief system and is focused on understanding the meaning of an experience from the individual’s perspective. We use this type of research to understand the meaning or the human lived experience of certain phenomena (Houser, 2018; Polit & Beck, 2018). For example:

  • What is it like to have a certain health condition?
  • What does it feel like to experience a certain situation?

Regardless, the researcher is exploring the subject of interest’s perspective and intends to explain their meaning/perspective. Qualitative research involves (Houser, 2018; Polit & Beck, 2018):

  • A naturalistic approach
  • Focused on finding the meaning from an informant/subject’s experience/perspective
  • Little emphasis on control by the researcher
  • Reality being constructed by the informant/subject; not the researcher
  • Collects verbal descriptions and/or observable behaviors as data
  • Interviewing, observing, recording actions, and interactions are the data collection tools
  • Informants/subjects willing to be interviewed or observed for extended periods of time
  • Analyzing meaning from large amounts of word-based or observable data
  • Verbal descriptions and observations are used as a basis for analysis and conclusions

Qualitative studies do not investigate cause and effectnor involve the effect of interventions. However, these studies are valuable to our nursing profession in revealing our subject’s/patient’s experiences, feelings, values, and perceptions, an important element of an evidence-based practice. Again, qualitative studies are used for “addressing research questions in which the meaning of an experience is central to understanding the best therapeutic approach or provide an understanding from the patient or subject’s viewpoint” (Houser, 2018, p. 35). Qualitative research may form the basis of theories and can be used to explore “issues of behavior change, motivation, compliance, or tolerance/ acceptance of a treatment or intervention… a few examples of topics in which the patient’s perception is key” (Houser, 2018, p. 35). A few differing categories of Qualitative Research Designs are listed below:

Qualitative Research Designs

  • Phenomenology design is used to develop an understanding of experiences through the perception of those living them.
  • Ethnography design involves the researcher becoming immersed in the culture to describe the phenomena.
  • Grounded theory design seeks connections or links between ideas and concepts and is “grounded” in the subject’s reality.
  • Historical design looks for connections or links by exploring the history or the past.

Designs can be further categorized using time dimensions (refer to our textbook for more details):

  • Prospective
  • Retrospective
  • Cross-sectional
  • Longitudinal

Both quantitative and qualitative approaches are different; however, they are similar in:

  • Attaining scholarly work
  • Aiming for reliable, trustworthy results
  • Applying methods
  • Achieving confidence in conclusions
  • Creating credible evidence to establish the truth
    (Houser, 2018; Polit & Beck, 2018)


Designs that include elements of both quantitative and qualitative research approaches. Mixed method means that both qualitative and quantitative elements are present. 


The research design flows from the research question and outlines the plan for the study that will answer the research question. The design identifies the major components of the study. It is important to remember that there is no one best design for a research study. An experimental design may produce a stronger level of evidence, but it may be a poor fit for the purpose of the study. Examples of research, designs, and the questions each addresses are below.

Reading Research Literature

Gaining insight into how to read various sections of a research study can help you determine whether the research is relevant to your practice, and provides evidence upon which to base your decisions.

  • Title The title can reveal a great deal about the research report in just a few words. It may indicate the population, intervention, or research design.
  • Abstract The abstract is a concise summary of the highlights of the research and conveys the most important elements. May include key words and information about the design, purpose, problem, results, and conclusions.
  • Introduction The introduction to the report makes the case for the importance of the research. The study design may appear in the introduction or methods section. The introduction may discuss the scope of a problem, and its impact on a population. The purpose of the research may be labeled as the purpose, or it may be called the goals, the aims, the objectives, or the intent. These describe, in a clear and concise way, the reason for the research. The purpose statement may be found at the end of the review of the literature, right before the start of the methods section. The purpose statement may also be found in the abstract and at the end of the first few introductory paragraphs.

Read over Houser’s Where to Look section in each chapter to learn how to locate information when reading articles.


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Selecting an appropriate design is essential. Understanding the differences in approaches to solving practice problems is critical for the BSN; choosing the best design will help arrive at the best solution, a key element of providing a practice based on evidence.



A fun way to practice! After completing your required readings and the lesson for this week, take the Check Your Knowledge Practice Questions to see how well you understand the concepts offered in your text and lesson. This is not graded or reviewed; just a helpful, fun tool to practice your week four learning. Enjoy!


American Association of Colleges of Nurses (AACN). (2008). Executive summary: The essentials of baccalaureate education for professional nursing practice (2008). Retrieved from…

Houser, J. (2018). Nursing research: Reading, using, and creating evidence (4th ed.). Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett.

Polit, D., & Beck, C. (2018). Essentials of nursing research: Appraising evidence for nursing practice (9th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Wolters Kluwer.

Quality and Safety Education for Nurses (QSEN). (2018). QSEN knowledge, skills, and attitude competencies. Retrieved from

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