DESCRIPTIVE RESEARCH

This type of research is also a grouping that includes many particular research methodologies and procedures, such as observations, surveys, self-reports, and tests. The four parameters of research will help us understand how descriptive research in general is similar to, and different from, other types of research.

GENERAL APPROACH
Synthetic
(Holistic)
Analytic
(Constituent)

Unlike qualitative research, descriptive research may be more analytic. It often focuses on a particular variable or factor.

RESEARCH AIM
Deductive
(Hypothesis
Testing)
Heuristic
(Hypothesis
Generating)

Descriptive research may also operate on the basis of hypotheses (often generated through previous, qualitative research). That moves it toward the deductive side of the deductive/heuristic continuum.

CONTROL OVER THE RESEARCH CONTEXT
Low
High

Finally, like qualitative research, descriptive research aims to gather data without any manipulation of the research context. In other words, descriptive research is also low on the "control or manipulation of research context" scale. It is non-intrusive and deals with naturally occurring phenomena.

EXPLICITNESS OF DATA COLLECTION PROCEDURES
Low
High

In addition, the data collection procedures used in descriptive research may be very explicit. Some observation instruments, for example, employ highly refined categories of behavior and yield quantitative (numerical) data.

These differences also lead to another significant characteristic of descriptive research-the types of subjects it studies.

Descriptive research may focus on individual subjects and go into great depth and detail in describing them. Individual variation is not only allowed for but studied. This approach is called a case-study.

On the other hand, because of the data collection and analysis procedures (such as surveys) it may employ, descriptive research can also investigate large groups of subjects. Often these are pre-existing classes. In these cases, the analytical procedures tend to produce results that show "average" behavior for the group.