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In academic and professional environments, researchers often take on research projects before making definitive statements or taking action involving the subject matter. Descriptive research is a form of research that relies on a variety of different techniques to organize information. It is different from exploratory research in that it is typically more focused on a certain unknown or unproven aspect of the project.
Descriptive research does not rely on only one type of data; it relies on both quantitative and qualitative research. The research can utilize methods such as surveys, observation, field experiments, interviews and number analysis. Because it is so varied in method and usage, researchers favor its use in many different fields including marketing, medical health, science and psychology.
Perhaps the strongest argument for descriptive research is the fact that it offers well-rounded support for a thesis. Because it relies on such a range of different methods, it is considered a holistic approach to a subject. Qualitative research, such as surveys and interviews, make information relatable to the reader. For example, raw numbers may show that people are more prone to a specific behavior, but an interview will explain why this behavior is occurring.
Another argument in favor of descriptive research is that once information is assembled, there are many ways to apply it. For example, if you are a representative for an ad agency, you may conduct research to find out consumer opinion on a certain product. This research could include the information on the raw numbers of people who buy the product, the demographics of the end user and the focus groups that ask for consumer feedback on the product. Once you have this descriptive research, you can use it to focus your next ad campaign to the right clientele.
On the negative side, descriptive research can sometimes be skewed to fit the needs of the researcher. For example, if you are assembling a questionnaire, you might load the questions to direct the reader to answer a certain way. If you are doing a comparison between two products, you might give one product an unfair advantage to get the desired results. While qualitative research may be hard to argue against because it involves numbers and tests, questions of the researcher’s motive and method often arise.
Liza Hollis has been writing for print and online publications since 2003. Her work has appeared on various digital properties, including USAToday.com. Hollis earned a degree in English Literature from the University of Florida.