What Is Descriptive Research?

Descriptive research is one of three basic types of research design. It is a quantitative research method that is considered conclusive and is used to test specific hypotheses and describe characteristics or functions. Descriptive research should have a clear and accurate research question/problem.

Some reasons you would choose to conduct a descriptive research project are:

  1. To describe a certain group. For example: define a profile of heavy, light and none-buyers of carbonated soft drinks.
  2. To ascertain perceptions of a brand or product. For example: how do heavy buyers perceive different soft drink brands in terms of salience?
  3. To estimate the portion of a population that exhibits a certain behavior. For example: how many of light users also purchase iced tea?
  4. To determine the degree to which variables are connected. For example: to what extent is soft drink purchases relate to prepackaged cookies purchases?
  5. To forecast and make specific predictions. For example: what will be the sales of Pepsi in San-Diego

Quantitative descriptive data can be obtained in two ways: survey and observation methods.

The survey method is the most popular by far, with only ~1% of descriptive research being observation based; however, the observation method has an advantage: it allows you to measure actual behavior and not rely on reported or intended behavior. While it’s often more expensive, time-consuming and difficult, it’s worth considering under the right circumstances and if your research question allows it.

When trying to decide which research design to choose for your project, you might want to compare the three basic research designs to see which makes most sense for your needs. It will quickly become apparent that the most important factor in this decision is your research question. You must have a clear understanding of what you want to learn from your research and what type of result you or your stakeholders are expecting. If you don’t have a thorough understating of your research question you might end up choosing the wrong design and waste time and resources.

Once you’re certain that you know and understand your research question, use the chart below to help you determine if descriptive research is the right design for you:

Type of Research Descriptivie Research (Quantitative) Casual Research (Quantitative) Exploratory Research (Qualitative)
Objective To describe or measure specific characteristics or perceptions Determines cause and effect Uncover insights, develop hypotheses
  • Preplanned, structured, specific
  • Used to test hypotheses
  • Manipulation of a variable and measuring its effect on a dependent variable
  • Flexible, adaptable
  • Often the initial stage of research
Best suited for Answering basic questions about who, when, where, why etc. Determining the effect of certain variables, (such as price, packaging etc.) on other variables (such as purchase intent, likeability, salience etc.) Undertaking new topics of research or gaining a more in-depth understanding of well-established research
Methods used
  • Secondary data
  • Surveys
  • Observation
  • Experiments
  • Surveys
  • Focus groups
  • IDIs
  • Projective technique

Where does Invoke fit?

Invoke takes the best of the methods described above and combines them into one neat package that yields the rich and deep results of qualitative research with the confidence of quantitative research. Invoke’s unique methodology and technology empowers you to make same day decisions guided by your consumers. Contact us today to schedule a demo and see how we can help save you time, money and energy without sacrificing the quality of your research.

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