In textbooks (and guides like this) one can often find an idealistic and unrealistic model for how the research process should proceed. These process models are, however, useful in describing what different stages there are in conducting a piece of research, and especially when planning one. Since we are focusing here on non-experimental research designs, a process illustrating a non-experimental research process is presented. The following outline of a research process includes 8 steps of which steps 1–3 are related to the preparation of the study, 4 to the data collection, 5–7 to the actual analysis, and 8 to presenting the results.
- Exploring theory (i.e. reading books and scientific articles)
- Determining the research questions and formulating hypotheses
- Defining what/who the observational units are (i.e. people), the variables (what is to be measured/asked) and the sample (how the observational units will be selected, i.e. the criteria for inclusion and how many there will be of them)
- Collecting data and preparing it for analysis
- Describing the data through frequencies and relations between different variables
- Conducting statistical tests and inferences
- Making any required additional inquiries to the data and testing cause and effect relations
- Interpreting the results and writing the research report.