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Durham University

Research and Innovation Services

Research Design

Good research design is key to ensuring the quality and reproducibility of research. The following points should be considered when designing projects:

  • The proposed project should have a clear aim and address pertinent questions. Research projects should be designed either to add to existing knowledge about the subject or to develop methods for research into it.
  • The design of the study should be appropriate for the question(s) being asked and address the most important potential sources of bias, including any conflicts of interest.
  • Arrangements for managing data should be addressed at an early stage, including how data will be gathered, analysed, stored and shared, both during and after the project.
  • The project team should possess (or, via collaboration with relevant specialists, have access to) all necessary skills and experience to carry out the proposed activity.
  • Where projects are collaborative, the way in which the project will be conducted and the roles and responsibilities of each partner should be agreed at an early stage.
  • Timescales should be appropriate, and sufficient resources should be available to carry out the proposed activity and should meet all relevant standards. Relevant university services should be consulted during the planning stage.
  • Ethical and governance considerations should be addressed at an early stage. An assessment should be carried out in advance to identify any potential legal requirements, and any ethical or other risks, including risks to the organisation, to the project, to the health, safety and well-being of the project team and participants, or arising from the outputs of the project. The dignity, rights, safety and well-being of any participants must be a primary consideration.
  • Any issues relating to the above should be resolved as far as possible prior to the start of the project, including putting in place plans for managing identified risks or conflicts of interest. Ethical approval (where required) and any necessary licenses must be in place before the project begins.
  • Peer review processes should be used to verify and refine the appropriate design of the project.