Descriptive research is a type of research that provides an in-depth description of the phenomenon or population under study. Descriptive research is neither in the category of qualitative research nor in the class of quantitative research, but it uses the features of both types of research.
Descriptive research emphasizes what kind of question to be asked in the research study. The descriptive research provides the answer to the “what” part of a research and does not answer the questions why/when/how.
Descriptive research is a suitable choice if you want to learn about the trends of a particular field or the frequency of an event. This research is also an appropriate option when you do not have any information about the research problem, and primary information gathering is required to establish a hypothesis. In this article, you will learn about the characteristics, methods, examples, advantages, and disadvantages of descriptive research.
Characteristics of Descriptive Research
1. Statistical Outcome
Descriptive research answers the “what” questions in statistical form. As the output is in emphasizes form, it is easy for the researcher to deduce results and implement them. Because of this characteristic of descriptive research, it is popularly used in market researches.
2. The basis for secondary research
The results obtained from descriptive research is in statistical form. Therefore, it can also be used as secondary data for similar research problems. In addition to this, different research techniques can be applied to the data for the analysis of various factors of the research problem.
3. Unrestrained variable
Random variables are used in descriptive research. Therefore, it is not in the hands of researchers to control the variables of descriptive research. In descriptive research, the natural behavior of participants is observed to learn about them.
4. Natural setting
Descriptive researches are usually conducted in natural settings. For example, you can distribute questionnaires of surveys among random people, or in an observational method, you can observe the behavior of people in a particular environment. For example, if you want to learn about the buying behavior of people, then you can go to a supermarket and observe people.
5. Cross-sectional study
In descriptive research, different aspects of a single group are studied and compared to gain a different insight into the group.
Methods of Descriptive Research
There are three methods of descriptive research
1. Case study method
The case study method refers to the in-depth and detailed study of the subject, person or case, which is to be studied. A case study involves a formal research method to carry out the research. Using the outcomes obtained from the case study research hypothesis can be established, which can be used to expand the horizons of research.
However, case study research is not suitable to determine the relationship between cause and effect as it does not provide accurate results. Moreover, the outcome of the case study method is relevant to that particular case and similar cases and can’t be generalised. Case studies are focused on interesting and unusual cases that are complex and challenging and provide additional information about a particular case.
For example, in a medical case study, researchers study a rare medical case to get more knowledge about the medical case. Similarly, case study methods are used by scientists to learn about unusual phenomenon.
2. Observational Method
Observational research is a type of non-experimental research. Observational research can be defined as a type of research where the researcher observes the ongoing behaviors of the subject being studied. Observational research is majorly used in the marketing and social science fields. In observational research, the researcher finds the actions of subjects under study in their natural setting.
Observational methods are different from experimental research methods because, in experimental research methods, an artificial environment is created for the subjects under study. An observational study can be of two types, naturalistic observation or participant observation. A naturalistic observation study means the study of subjects when they are at their natural behavior.
In participant observation, people being observed in the research study are aware of the observation. They are asked to take part in the observation study. Observational research methods are suitable for studying the behavior of subjects under the study. However, this research is incapable of providing information about the actual cause of the behaviours of subjects under study.
3. Survey Research
Survey research is one of the most popular and easy forms of research to obtain information or to collect data. A questionnaire is prepared to contain questions related to the research problem either on paper or in any digital format. These questionnaires are distributed among random people in the hope of getting their accurate opinion.
The survey research method is popularly used in University researches and business researches. Survey research is also called primary research and can be used with other research methods to obtain accurate outcomes.
Moreover, data collected from survey research can be used as secondary research data by other researchers.
Examples of descriptive research
Let us take the case of a sports clothing brand. The sports brand wants to set up a business in selling gym gears. They want to know about in detail about the kind of clothes people want to wear while exercising in the gym. To get in-depth information about the preference of people, they adopted two descriptive methods one is naturalistic observation, and the other is a survey.
In naturalistic observation, they started observing people at different gyms and silently learn about the kind of clothes they prefer to wear. To know more about their choices, they conducted a survey and distributed questionnaire containing questions like How much would they like to spend on a sports track pant?
What color of gym gear do they prefer to wear while working out? Answer to these questions will provide them the knowledge that was difficult to obtain through observing.
A restaurant planned to start to serve continental food to its customers. Therefore, to learn about the choice of people in flavor and taste, they an observation method to learn about what kind of spreads, herbs, and meat preferred by people.
Here is a video by Marketing91 on Descriptive Research.
Advantages of descriptive research
- Data collected from descriptive research is helpful in important decision-making because the data is obtained from a large population. Because using the descriptive survey method, statistical information can be obtained, and analysis of that data can be made to deduce desired results.
- A variety of data can be obtained using different descriptive research methods like surveys, observation, and vase study. These three research methods provide different type of data which can be used to analysis for a research problem. For example, using the case study research method can be used to develop a hypothesis about a research problem.
- One advantage of descriptive research over other research methods is that it is cheap and quick to conduct descriptive research. You don’t require having a great place dedicated only to research. Descriptive research like observation research can be held in natural settings, and you can distribute surveys to people online or get them answered by random people at your business place or other public places.
- Descriptive research provides both quantitative and qualitative data. The variety of data provides a holistic understanding of the research problem.
- Descriptive research can be conducted in natural settings. There is no need to have a designated space to conduct research using any of the descriptive research methods.
Disadvantages of descriptive research
- Descriptive methods only provide the answers for “what” and do not answer the why and how. Therefore, descriptive research methods are not suitable for determining cause and effect relationships.
- Descriptive methods mainly depend on the responses of people. There are chances that people might not act their true selves if they know they are being observed. In the case of the survey method, there are chances that some people don’t answer the questions honestly, which makes the output of the descriptive research study invalid. Because the results derived from this type of data will not be accurate.
- Another problem associated with descriptive research is the halo effect. A researcher might get partial if he knows the participant personally. The observations made in this way would be considered invalid.
- In descriptive research methods, participants are picked randomly. The randomness of the sample can’t represent the whole population accurately.