Descriptive Research – Definition & Methods

10.09.20 Types of research studies Time to read: 6min

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There are a variety of research designs that are used by researchers, and they all have different purposes. Research designs aim at finding out how various research problems can be solved. The research designs use different methods and techniques. In this article, we are going to focus on the descriptive design and what it entails in research.

Descriptive Research - FAQ

A descriptive research design is used when a researcher aims to identify different attributes such as characteristics, frequencies, trends, correlation, and categories. The researcher can use it when they have less information about the research problem.

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The motive of the research design is to find out how a phenomenon coexists in the research problem, and the researcher aims to investigate how it fits the existing problem. Therefore, seeking to describe the research problem accurately.

Descriptive research is not a qualitative method; instead, it uses both qualitative research and quantitative research methods in its aim to identify different correlations and attributes in a research problem.

Descriptive Research: Definition

Descriptive research is a research design that is used to investigate different phenomenon and situations. It always targets to answer questions like how the situation happen, when in terms of the time or date, where in terms of the place it happened, and what the issue or phenomenon is. The research design majorly focuses on explaining more of the population; therefore, it integrates different research methods for its success. It is a unique kind of design because there is no manipulation of the variable; rather, the researcher uses observation to measure the findings.

Descriptive research designs are used by researchers when they want to define the problem and why it exists hence the use of varied designs that are added to help the research process. The descriptive design is used in different organisations and institutions to solve the root of the problem.

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Descriptive Research Methods

Descriptive research is categorised in different research methods that have different purposes in the research process. These methods can be used when you are conducting descriptive research according to your goals and objectives.

Survey Method

Surveys are one of the methods that can be applied in descriptive research to collect information. The descriptive survey majorly deals with investigating the degree at which a condition can be on the subjects. For example, if a research problem wants to find out the rate of the turnover in the organisation due to the Corona virus, the researcher can come up with surveys that are going to be answered by the employees of the organisation.

The survey questions could use the open-ended or closed mode of questionnaires that are going to be filled by the employees. Data that has been collected is to be analysed by the use of quantitative or qualitative research methods to come up with the findings. This method allows the accessible collection of information from the specified target sample; in turn, different solutions can be applied after the analysis.

Observation Method

Observation is a significant part of the descriptive research. In most cases, this method can use both qualitative and quantitative approaches to analyse the data. The observation method involves the collection of data that is to be interpreted to give a correlation between the two variables in the descriptive research.

Additionally, the observation method can use the qualitative through the collection of data in the form of observing the behaviours and characteristics of the target sample. As we said earlier, the descriptive research aims at identifying the real issue in the research problem, hence the research question allows them to have a deep insight into the real issue. This will make them have enough data to analyse and come up with the right findings.

Case Study Method

The case study method entails the use of a target sample or subgroup that information will be collected from. Frequently, there is the integration of different data collection methods such as surveys or questionnaires that are filled by the participants to collect the data needed. The use of a small group allows you to understand the dynamics of the whole group hence will enable you to discover something new about the research problem.

Descriptive Research: How to analyse data?

Data analysis involves the use of different techniques that allow the researcher to assess and come up with reliability and validity findings. In descriptive research, the frequently used methods are the use of a table, means, and quantiles, measures of dispersion like variance and standard deviation, and the cross-tabulations that are used in the examination of different hypotheses.

In the descriptive analysis, the primary function is to find out different measures in terms of segregation, discrimination, and inequality. The data analysis aims to use quantitative methods to find and give accurate results, and this helps in finding the solutions.
For example, if the research problem entails two variables, the use of the variance analysis allows you to determine the correlation between two variables; hence the findings will enable you to come up with the general conclusions. This guides the researcher on how to find solutions to the main problem.

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Advantages & Disadvantages

Descriptive Research positive
  • Descriptive research allows easy analysis of non-quantified research problem by implementing the qualitative methods
  • It uses easy research methods such as observation, where the researcher may or may not participate in the activities that are ongoing in a particular target group.
  • Descriptive research is multifaceted as it incorporates different research designs like quantitative research and qualitative research designs.
  • It is time conscious as it saves you more time compared to other research designs like quantitative methods.
Descriptive Research negative
  • Descriptive research may not confirm the research problem statistically.
  • Non-responsiveness and biasness could be when coming up with the results based on the researcher’s observation and inadequate statistical methods used.
  • The studies cannot be repeated due to the methods used like observation.
  • It is inadequate in helping the researcher in the identification of the cause of the phenomenon.
  • It covers a limited scope of study where it focuses on what rather than why in the research problem.
  • The use of methods such as case study might not be the representation of the whole target sample hence affecting the results produced.
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In a Nutshell

  • Descriptive research entails the study of phenomenons to answer the questions what, when, where and how.
  • It is used to identify the characteristics, attributes trends and correlations in the research problem.
  • Descriptive research implements both qualitative and quantitative research methods.
  • The research designs use the case study, observation, and survey methods in the collection of the required data for analysis.
  • Descriptive research is analysed by different techniques such as the use tables, standard deviation, variance, means and quantiles, and cross-tabulations.
  • Descriptive research is reliable and less time consuming compared to other methods of data collection.
  • The diversification allows it to employ more than one research design during the research process.
  •  It could face a lot of biasness and non-responsiveness when you exclude the use of statistical methods.
  • It is undependable because of the use of the observation method that you cannot repeatedly use for your research process.
  • Different methods may alter the results, such as the case study hence misinterpreted results that aren’t per the whole population.