Descriptive research definition: Descriptive research is defined as a research method that describes the characteristics of the population or phenomenon studied. This descriptive methodology focuses more on the “what” of the research subject than the “why” of the research subject.
The descriptive research method primarily focuses on describing the nature of a demographic segment, without focusing on “why” a particular phenomenon occurs. In other words, it “describes” the subject of the research, without covering “why” it happens.
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For example, an apparel brand that wants to understand the fashion purchasing trends among New York buyers will conduct a demographic survey of this region, gather population data and then conduct descriptive research on this demographic segment. The study will then uncover details on “what is the purchasing pattern of New York buyers,” but not cover any investigative information about “why” the patterns exits. Because for the apparel brand trying to break into this market, understanding the nature of their market is the study’s objective.
Characteristics of descriptive research
The term descriptive research then refers to research questions, design of the study, and data analysis conducted on that topic. We call it an observational research method because none of the research study variables are influenced in any capacity.
Some distinctive characteristics of descriptive research are:
Applications of descriptive research with examples
A descriptive research method can be used in multiple ways and for various reasons. Before getting into any survey, though, the survey goals and survey design are crucial. Despite following these steps, there is no way to know if one will meet the research outcome. How to use descriptive research? To understand the end objective of research goals, below are some ways organizations currently use descriptive research today:
Advantages of descriptive research
Some of the significant advantages of descriptive research are:
Descriptive research methods
There are three distinctive methods to conduct descriptive research. They are:
The observational method is the most effective method to conduct this research, and researchers make use of both quantitative and qualitative observations.
A quantitative observation is the objective collection of data, which is primarily focused on numbers and values. It suggests “associated with, of or depicted in terms of a quantity.” Results of quantitative observation are derived using statistical and numerical analysis methods. It implies observation of any entity associated with a numeric value such as age, shape, weight, volume, scale, etc. For example, the researcher can track if current customers will refer the brand using a simple Net Promoter Score question.
Qualitative observation doesn’t involve measurements or numbers but instead just monitoring characteristics. In this case, the researcher observes the respondents from a distance. Since the respondents are in a comfortable environment, the characteristics observed are natural and effective. In a descriptive research design, the researcher can choose to be either a complete observer, an observer as a participant, a participant as an observer, or a full participant. For example, in a supermarket, a researcher can from afar monitor and track the customers’ selection and purchasing trends. This offers a more in-depth insight into the purchasing experience of the customer.
Case studies involve in-depth research and study of individuals or groups. Case studies lead to a hypothesis and widen a further scope of studying a phenomenon. However, case studies should not be used to determine cause and effect as they can’t make accurate predictions because there could be a bias on the researcher’s part. The other reason why case studies are not a reliable way of conducting descriptive research is that there could be an atypical respondent in the survey. Describing them leads to weak generalizations and moving away from external validity.
In survey research, respondents answer through surveys or questionnaires or polls. They are a popular market research tool to collect feedback from respondents. A study to gather useful data should have the right survey questions. It should be a balanced mix of open-ended questions and close ended-questions. The survey method can be conducted online or offline, making it the go-to option for descriptive research where the sample size is enormous.
Examples of descriptive research
Some examples of descriptive research are:
Some other problems and research questions that can lead to descriptive research are:
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