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This section offers broad advice on what to keep in mind when constructing a research design. Many of the points discussed below are drawn from and presented more fully within Epstein & King (2002) as well as King, Keohane, & Verba (1994) which are highly recommended sources for in-depth guidance on proper research design and execution.
The first step of any empirical research study is to formulate a research question. What does the study seek to explain? A good research question should generally conform to the following rules:
Once the research question is clearly stated, the next step is to offer a clear answer to the question which is theoretically informed and from which falsifiable hypotheses can be derived. The hypothesis should:
If there is insufficient evidence to reject a clearly stated, falsifiable hypothesis, then the theory becomes increasingly plausible. A theory which offers many observable implications and therefore more opportunities to be tested has the potential to become a very strong theory if the hypotheses derived from it cannot be rejected.
Remember that the fundamental objective of empirical research is to make inferences—that is, using known facts to understand unknown facts. Typically we use observable data (known facts) to test certain hypotheses which are guided by theory to uncover these unknown facts.
Let's take a look at a simple example.
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