Descriptive research, also known as statistical research, describes data and characteristics about the population or phenomenon being studied. However, it does not answer questions about e.g.: how/when/why the characteristics occurred, which is done under analytic research.
Although the data description is factual, accurate and systematic, the research cannot describe what caused a situation. Thus, Descriptive research cannot be used to create a causal relationship, where one variable affects another. In other words, descriptive research can be said to have a low requirement for internal validity.
The description is used for frequencies, averages and other statistical calculations. Often the best approach, prior to writing descriptive research, is to conduct a survey investigation. Qualitative research often has the aim of description and researchers may follow-up with examinations of why the observations exist and what the implications of the findings are.
Social science research
Descriptive research generally precedes explanatory research. For example, over time chemists have described the elements through the periodic table. The periodic table’s description of the elements allows people and families to think about the elements in helpful ways. It allows for explanation and prediction when elements are combined.
In addition, the conceptualizing of Descriptive research (categorization or taxonomy) precedes the hypotheses of explanatory research. For a discussion of how the underlying conceptualization of Exploratory research, Descriptive research and explanatory research fit together see Conceptual framework.
- Shields, Patricia and HassanTajalli. 2006. Intermediate Theory: The Missing Link in Successful Student Scholarship. Journal of Public Affairs Education. Vol. 12, No. 3. Pp. 313-334. http://ecommons.txstate.edu/polsfacp/39/
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