Aim To provide and elucidate a comprehensible framework for the design of social research. Background An abundance of information exists concerning the process of designing social research. The overall message that can be gleaned is that numerable elements - both philosophical (ontological and epistemological assumptions and theoretical perspective) and practical (issue to be addressed, purpose, aims and research questions) - are influential in the process of selecting a research methodology and methods, and that these elements and their inter-relationships must be considered and explicated to ensure a coherent research design that enables well-founded and meaningful conclusions. There is a lack of guidance concerning the integration of practical and philosophical elements, hindering their consideration and explication. Data sources The author's PhD research into loneliness and cancer. Review methods This is a methodology paper. Discussion A guiding framework that incorporates all of the philosophical and practical elements influential in social research design is presented. The chronological and informative relationships between the elements are discussed. Conclusion The framework presented can be used by social researchers to consider and explicate the practical and philosophical elements influential in the selection of a methodology and methods. Implications for practice/research It is hoped that the framework presented will aid social researchers with the design and the explication of the design of their research, thereby enhancing the credibility of their projects and enabling their research to establish well-founded and meaningful conclusions.