Basics of Research Process

Descriptive Research: Methods & Writing Guide

Descriptive Research
Worried about writing a unique paper?

Use our free
Readability checker

Descriptive research is a type of study used to overview characteristics of a population or phenomenon. It does not attempt to explain why something is happening. The purpose of a descriptive study is to simply describe such features of the population as age, gender, or ethnicity. 

In this guide, we will explain what a descriptive research study is, its core methods and how to conduct it properly. Read on and you will find detailed guidelines and examples. 

What Is Descriptive Research: Full Definition

Descriptive research is used when any writer needs to describe the nature of their chosen subject. In the majority of cases, such works will contain the description of the population. They will also use quantitative information such as statistics.

However, using statistics doesn't mean that you need to explain your findings. Answering 'why' is not required. 'What' or 'who' will be more appropriate. Similarly, your professor or even a company might ask you to collect a specific range of data about the population or phenomenon. Thus, there will be practically no analysis if the former is already closer to explaining than a descriptive paper.

Types of Descriptive Research

There are plenty of types of descriptive research design. But don't let this fact scare you from exploring them further. Here's a brief list to think about:

  • Survey With it, you can conduct surveys to receive quantitative data.
  • Normative Use it to compare received data with certain forms.
  • Status This study seeks to study real-time situations.
  • Analysis It describes and analyzes your subject.
  • Comparative Use it to compare sets of data.
  • Classification This study classifies collected data. In the majority of cases, biologists use this type to classify studied animals considering their characteristics.

If you need professional help with your descriptive study, don’t hesitate to pay for research paper at StudyCrumb. You will get comprehensive assistance from A to Z.

Characteristics of Descriptive Research

Descriptive research has several unique characteristics to be understood. In brief, they look something like this:

  1. Your design should answer your research questions you initially proposed.
  2. It also must help your readers to understand the contents of your work.
  3. Moreover, it should describe what data collection methods you use.

Other crucial characteristics can be found below. So make sure to read through them!

Descriptive Quantitative Research

Our first step through designs is quantitative descriptive research. Even though the former is relatively self-explanatory, we’ll still include several things to remember. Take a closer look at our following list.

Quantitative research study:

  • Focuses on collecting quantifiable information.
  • Proposes statistical data.
  • Is usually used for marketing studies and population analysis.
  • Describe the nature of demographics without answering ‘why’ it is the way it is.

Therefore, when researching, you should state: “Seven people like apples, while three prefer bananas.” And yes, our data is more than legit.

Uncontrolled Variables in Descriptive Research

Descriptive research involves variables. As we’re not conducting an experiment but describing a current situation, our variables will also be uncontrolled. It means that the researchers cannot and should not include all results of their data. Thus, we have no control over your studied population.

In this case, we should stick to observing rather than participating or pulling strings. If this is hard for you, you can view such variables as something philosophical, like fate or just life in general. So go with your chosen flow and note down everything you see.

Basis for Further Research

Oftentimes, descriptive research can go much further than expected. No wonder, as data collection may help any researcher do fund the grounds for even more studies. Thus, we say that your design can develop study even further.

Your analyzed data can further what we already know and hint at other possible methods of research. Moreover, collected information can also inform us what will fit the best if we continue with your used topic.

Descriptive Research Design: When to Use

Descriptive research design is a universal tool that can be used for many things. Thus, researchers do not shy away from utilizing quantitative data when it’s due. You can consider your very own design if:

  • Paper calls for measuring frequencies of a particular phenomenon.
  • Subject might be studying or proposing the analysis of trends (especially for business and marketing purposes).
  • Subjects need to be sorted into varied categories depending on their specific characteristics.

As you can see, there are plenty of opportunities to collect some data. When you need information on population, it is your best option to see how descriptive design applies to your situation.

If you are not sure how to use a research study design, contact StudyCrumb to receive research paper help 24/7.

Descriptive Research Methods

There are pretty many descriptive research methods to choose from. However, most people prefer well-known ones. There are three of them we will discuss today.

  • Surveys They are used to collect opinions and study your population. If you need to see how workers perceive a certain change, get along, react to remote work or similar topic. Surveys are pretty fitting with their questionnaires or polls.
  • Observations They include watching your chosen phenomenon. You will write down and document your observations and quantify them. But remember not to influence what you see and stick to uncontrolled variables.
  • Case studies They involve a thorough understanding of a topic. A case study also uses quantitative data but aim to describe your chosen subject or phenomenon fully. A suitable synonym would be ‘in-depth research.’ Finally, case studies cannot be used to find cause and effect relationships.

Descriptive Research Examples

We won’t leave you without a thorough example of descriptive research. Even though there are several ways or usage of the former, we will focus on comparing data. Our example also fits marketing.


Let us imagine that a company you’re working for or writing about creates a new logo with a renewed slogan. It is natural that they cannot be used without proper testing. So you’re asked whether their new branding will be loved by your audience. The best way to receive results is to conduct a survey. Send polls or questionnaires to people, asking their age, gender, occupation, and so on, depending on your case. Results you gather will show what sort of population likes your logo and slogan more than others do.

Descriptive Research: Key Takeaways

Now descriptive research is not some wayward entity. With all our newly gained knowledge, we will control research design and soon the whole world… Too much? Nevermind, here’s a quick brief about what we have learned:

  • You need quantitative data collection not to find cause and effect relationships, especially using case studies.
  • Measuring attitudes and analyzing your population is your main goal.
Need expert help?

If this complicated research is still confusing for you, StudyCrumb can lend you a helping hand. Our writers know everything about the quality and strict deadlines. So check out what we can do for you!

Frequently Asked Questions About Descriptive Research

1. What differentiates experimental methods from descriptive methods?

Descriptive research and experimental research are quite different in their nature. Their main differences come from the variables they use. Descriptive studies focus on the selected phenomenon or a group of people. They also simply observe and collect data. On the other hand, experimental works manipulate variables and change them. Thus, where one uses uncontrolled variables, the other sticks to controlled options.

2. What differentiates exploratory methods from descriptive methods?

The difference between exploratory and descriptive research is their main purpose. The first method aims to describe only without going deeply into explanations. It answers the question “where, when, who, what.” At the same time, exploratory methods go deeper into the analysis of their problems. It also tries to understand the issues the research has faced. It may answer ‘why’ if needed and called for.

3. What is the purpose of descriptive research?

The purpose of descriptive research is stated right in its name. Here you aim to describe the nature of the selected subject or phenomenon. You can slap describe the hypothesis about people or groups of individualism. Just a reminder: such methods answer questions “where, when, who, what” and describe population or classifications.

4. How do you know if a research is descriptive?

Descriptive research design is easy to recognize. Suppose the study you see focuses on questions: “where, when, who, what,” you have yourself a descriptive study. It can also be noticed by the quantitative data it uses. Thus, numbers and the given questions will be your best indicators. If the paper goes far beyond them and explains something, it’s a different type.

Article posted on:Aug 4, 2022
Article updated on:May 11, 2023


Leave your comment here:
9/30/2022 7:34 AM
Hey, I was wondering what is the difference between descriptive and causal research?
9/30/2022 7:49 AM
Hi Christoph,

Thank you for a good question! Descriptive research is primarily intended to describe what happens or what exists. It is used when a writer needs to describe the nature of their chosen subject. In turn, causal research is designed to determine whether one or more variables causes or affects the value of other variables.
9/30/2022 7:53 AM
Thanks for your answer!
10/7/2022 9:20 AM
Hello guys! I need your help with one question. Which of the following best describes an example of descriptive research about youth gang members?

1. A study aimed at determining how relationships develop between gang members.
2. A study focusing on the meanings that gang members assign to their group.
3. A study examining who gang members are and what their activities are.
4. A study describing the effect of the drug trade on the formation of gangs.
5. A study focused on the effects of social networks and gang membership.
10/7/2022 9:32 AM
I guess the right answer is 3. A study examining who gang members are and what their activities are.
10/7/2022 9:34 AM
Thanks for your help!