The Research Design Canvas

A single page summary of your project

Get to grips with your PhD from day one. Bring together key decisions, choices, and project details on a single page. Learn about academic research and your own topic at the same time while proactively designing your own research project.

PP
Phenomenon / Problem

Action Focus:

The phenomenon / problem building block identifies the ‘thing’ or ‘things’ you are interested in investigating, possibly including a real world problem, as well as the stakeholders of your research.”

Building Block Questions

What are the main phenomenon and sub-phenomena in the research?

Does the research involve a real world problem and if so, what is it?

Who are the key stakeholders of the research?

AP
Philosophical Assumptions
/ Paradigm

Action Focus:

The Assumptions / Paradigm building block identifies philosophical assumptions or the research paradigm which underpins the project.

Building Block Questions

Is the research based upon particular philosophical assumptions?

Does the research operate within a specific research paradigm?

L
Literature

Action Focus:

The literature building block identifies distinct areas of existing research - ‘bodies of literature’ - relevant to your own research topic. This includes determining the focus of each body of literature, the characteristics of each body of literature, identifying key articles, studies, or reports, and considering the relative importance or role of each body of literature in your project.

Building Block Questions

What bodies of literature / areas of research are relevant to the project?

What is the overriding focus of each body of literature?

What are the key papers / studies?

Are there identifiable sub-areas or constellations of studies in the body of literature?

What are the characteristics of each body of literature (big / small, well established / newly emerging, academic / non-academic, same / different disciplines?)

How important is each body of literature?

L
Literature

Action Focus:

The literature building block identifies distinct areas of existing research - ‘bodies of literature’ - relevant to your own research topic. This includes determining the focus of each body of literature, the characteristics of each body of literature, identifying key articles, studies, or reports, and considering the relative importance or role of each body of literature in your project.

OA
Observations & Arguments

Action Focus:

The observations and arguments building block summarises your analysis of literature, helping you to demonstrate your comprehension of past research and utilise ideas to effectively frame your project, and therefore justify why your own research is important to others. This building block will help you to adopt a systematic and purposeful approach to analysing literature.

Building Block Questions

What evidence exists in each body of literature? (findings / results, conclusions, recommendations, propositions, hypotheses, relationships, etc.)

What issue(s) or theme(s) are observable in each body of literature?

Is there a gap(s) and / or problem(s)?

What are the costs or risks of not addressing the gap / problem?

Are there potential connections between bodies of literature leading to new issues, themes, a gap, or problem?

L
Literature

Action Focus:

The literature building block identifies distinct areas of existing research - ‘bodies of literature’ - relevant to your own research topic. This includes determining the focus of each body of literature, the characteristics of each body of literature, identifying key articles, studies, or reports, and considering the relative importance or role of each body of literature in your project.

RQH
Research Questions
Hypotheses

Action Focus:

The research questions / hypotheses building block includes clearly expressed research questions, possibly in groups, and tentative hypotheses (if appropriate for your project). By placing your questions / hypotheses in the middle of the canvas and to the right of the literature and observations & arguments building blocks, you’ll be able to see how they relate to and are informed by other parts of your canvas.

Building Block Questions

What are the research questions?

Are there any tentative hypotheses?

What is the value of investigating the research questions or hypotheses for the body of literature(s)?

Building Block Questions

Is the research based upon particular philosophical assumptions?

Does the research operate within a specific research paradigm?

L
Literature

Action Focus:

The literature building block identifies distinct areas of existing research - ‘bodies of literature’ - relevant to your own research topic. This includes determining the focus of each body of literature, the characteristics of each body of literature, identifying key articles, studies, or reports, and considering the relative importance or role of each body of literature in your project.

TC
Theory & Concepts

Action Focus:

Theory and concepts can be incorporated in various ways into academic research, and the actual meaning of theory differs between disciplines. Determining the precise nature and role of theory and concepts in your project represents a crucial milestone because this building block can have implications for many other parts of your research.

Building Block Questions

What role will theory or concepts play in the research?

What specific theory / concepts / model / framework / lens will be used, developed, or tested?

What does theory mean / what constitutes theory in your discipline or topic area?

Building Block Questions

Is the research based upon particular philosophical assumptions?

Does the research operate within a specific research paradigm?

L
Literature

Action Focus:

The literature building block identifies distinct areas of existing research - ‘bodies of literature’ - relevant to your own research topic. This includes determining the focus of each body of literature, the characteristics of each body of literature, identifying key articles, studies, or reports, and considering the relative importance or role of each body of literature in your project.

MDM
Methodology / Design / Methods

Action Focus:

The methodology / design / methods building block determines how you will conduct your research. A methodology or design provides principles / objectives to guide your investigation and the features / strengths of the methods demonstrate how you will collect and analyse data.

Building Block Questions

What is the overall methodology or research design for the study?

What are the principles / objectives / quality criteria of the methodology / research design?

Is the methodology / design well-established or relatively unique in your discipline / topic area?

What methods of data collection and analysis will be used?

What are the key features or strengths of each method?

How will the methods complement each other?

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