The first thing any researcher needs to do is choose the right method of study for a particular topic. Generally, research is aimed at finding why a particular phenomenon occurs and discovering the explanation for it. However, before getting into knowing “why”, it is important to answer other equally significant questions: “what”, “when”, “how”, and “where”. This is where descriptive design becomes an integral part of the research method for researchers. The following article discusses what is descriptive design, its importance, the different types of descriptive designs, as well as its advantages. Let’s, therefore, understand what is descriptive design by delving deeper into the topic.
What is Descriptive Design?
Descriptive design is a type of research design that utilizes both quantitative and qualitative methods of research to collect data to describe a phenomenon, situation, or population. Major methods of descriptive research design include observations, surveys, and case studies. In this design method, researchers do not control or manipulate variables.
To put it in simpler terms, this form of research aims to explain a particular phenomenon or occurrence. Furthermore, descriptive research opens wider opportunities to study an event or occurrence more deeply by utilizing other methods of research. One significant advantage of descriptive design is that information is collected as statistical data. This data can be used in other research studies, and can also substantiate the results efficiently.
Examples of Descriptive Design
As mentioned above, descriptive design helps to study the pattern of behavior of a particular population. A typical example is exit poll surveys conducted by different agencies during elections. In such polls, agencies study the opinions of different populations using surveys and analyze this data to understand the chances of different political parties in the election.
Online platforms also use descriptive design. They use it to analyze the tastes and shopping patterns of different customers. At times, researchers ask customers to give feedback by answering certain questions. Doing so helps such platforms to gain insights into customer demands.
Another example of what is descriptive design is the census conducted by governments. Researchers gather various details, such as population distribution and economic conditions.
What are the Characteristics of Descriptive Design?
If you are wondering what is descriptive design in terms of the characteristics, let’s read on:
1. No Manipulation of the Natural Environment
In descriptive research, researchers gather information about a particular topic in its most natural environment to avoid any manipulation. Additionally, descriptive design does not require any physical settings, such as a research lab.
2. Allows for Cross-Sectional Studies
Usually, researchers collect data from a random population for descriptive research. This is also beneficial for cross-sectional studies. Descriptive design, therefore, is an effective method to study the behavior of a wider population.
3. Involves Uncontrollable Variables
Descriptive research studies participants’ natural behavior. This means that the variables are not controlled by researchers. A random variable is one of the key components of descriptive design. A random variable is one of the key components of descriptive design.
4. Provides Quantifiable Results
Descriptive research is quantitative in nature; it is in a format that makes it possible to arrive at numerical values in order to carry out statistical analysis. This eases the process of data analysis for researchers to understand patterns and trends of an event, population, or occurrence. This further improves the credibility of the research results.
5. Enhances Further Research
Researchers utilize statistical data for descriptive studies, employing it as secondary data for other research. Moreover, the data can undergo various forms of data analysis.
Where are Descriptive Designs Commonly Used?
Descriptive design is mainly used to learn the background of a research problem and gather information required for further studies. Some of its most common uses are mentioned below:
1. Find Subject Characteristics
Researchers use it to collect characteristics of the participants such as behavior, traits, and opinion. They use surveys or observations for data collection.
2. Analyze Data Trends
Researchers can analyze the changes in data over time with descriptive design research. For example, the changing prices of a commodity. This can help to make better decisions on purchasing.
3. Compare Responses
Descriptive design helps to compare the responses of different populations to certain variables, like how users react to the launch of a new product.
4. Validate Existing Conditions
It allows for the in-depth analysis of data, which improves its credibility as a research method.
5. Credible Conclusions
Descriptive research design uses statistical data collected over time to explain any findings and thus can deliver conclusions.
Types of Descriptive Design
To further understand what is descriptive design, it is also necessary to understand its different types.
In a cross-sectional design, samples of a given population are used to get information. There are two primary types of cross-sectional design.
1. Single Cross-Sectional Design
A single sample from a larger population is used only once for data collection.
2. Multiple Cross-Sectional Design
In this method, researchers select multiple samples from a larger population. The data thus derived from each of the samples is used only once for research purposes.
Samples of a larger population are measured repeatedly over a period of time. And in longitudinal design, too, there are two main types:
1. Traditional Design
They measure the same variable from the sample repeatedly at regular intervals.
2. Omnibus Design
The nature of information changes each time collected from the respondents.
Descriptive Design Methods
Researchers gather information by observing the subjects in their most natural environment for a certain period. This method does not explain the cause of a particular behavior but could give an opening to further studies.
Case studies involve a detailed study of the behavior of a subject, and do not produce any results. In fact, they help to prove or disprove a hypothesis statement that could lead to further studies.
Researchers collect the data from a sample population by recording their opinions on pre-framed questions. It provides statistical data for detailed analysis and validates the research results.
Pros and Cons of Descriptive Design
Descriptive design is one of the most significant methods of collecting data related to various phenomena, situations, or populations. While it does come with its advantages, the design method also has its cons. Let’s look at both.
1. Efficient Data Collection
Descriptive design has multiple methods for data collection, such as observations, case studies, and surveys.
2. Fast and Cost-Efficient
It helps to collect data from a large population with limited time and cost.
The descriptive design gives a detailed understanding of the research topic as it covers almost all the elements of the topic.
4. External Validity
There is no external manipulation of the sample population. Therefore, the results are valid and credible.
1. Verification Through Testing is Not Possible
This method is not suitable for verification or testing as the data does not explain the cause of the phenomena.
2. Lack of Reliability
An inefficient formulation of the research hypothesis could reduce the reliability of this method.
3. Risk of Untrue Responses
The responses from a sample population collected may contain untrue feedback which could affect the research results.
4. Risk of Information Error
Researchers randomly collect data from a larger population. If the sample group isn’t representative of the larger population, it may lead to sampling error.
Difference Between Descriptive Design and Correlational Design
Researchers sometimes use both descriptive design and correlational design for similar purposes. Let us understand the significant differences between both research design methods.
- Descriptive design is an in-depth study about the behavior of the sample populations while correlational research measures the relationship between the variables of the population. There is no possibility of prediction in descriptive research while there are chances of prediction in correlational design.
- Correlational design studies the relationship between two variables in a sample population where the researcher has no control over the variables.
It tries to find whether there is a relationship between the variables through the following methods:
- Positive correlation, which involves changes in variables in the same direction
- Negative correlation is variable changes in opposite directions
- Zero correlation means there is no relationship between variables
Upskilling With Emeritus
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By Raj Shekhar
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