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Design Decisions in Research

3. The Conceptual Phase

The final step in the conceptual phase of the research process is to specify the research purpose, research questions, and research hypothesis if appropriate. The purpose of a study is a declarative statement that identifies the focus of the study, variables of interest, and the targeted population. There are times that a study may have an overarching purpose with several aims or research questions that will be investigated.

Table 2

Example of Research Purpose and Research Questions

  Example
Research Purpose To understand the process of integrating type 2 diabetes treatment recommendations into an existing lifestyle.
Research Questions What are the challenges to integrating type 2 diabetes treatment recommendations into an existing lifestyle?
What is the process that adults go through as they attempt to integrate type 2 diabetes treatment recommendations into an existing lifestyle?

Table previously published in: Whittemore, R. & Melkus, G. (2008). Designing a research study. The Diabetes Educator, 34, 201-216.

The overall goal of the conceptual phase of the research process is to articulate an important research question that can be developed into a feasible, important, valid, and ethical study design (Hulley et al., 2006).

Stephen Turner, PhD, discusses this phase in more detail in the chapter Theory Development.

Hulley, S. B., Cummings, S. R., Browner, W. S., Grady, D., & Newman, T. B. (2006). Designing clinical research: An epidemiologic approach. (3rd Edition). Philadelphia: Lippincott Willilams & Wilkins.