Descriptive Research





Descriptive Research

Focused towards the present
Gathering information and describing the current situation
May or may not involve hypothesis testing
Answers the question “What is?”
Many types of research fall within this classification
Descriptive research does not fit neatly into the definition of either quantitative or qualitative research methodologies, but instead it can utilize elements of both, often within the same study. The term descriptive research refers to the type of research question, design, and data analysis that will be applied to a given topic. Descriptive statistics tell what is, while inferential statistics try to determine cause and effect.
The type of question asked by the researcher will ultimately determine the type of approach necessary to complete an accurate assessment of the topic at hand. Descriptive studies, primarily concerned with finding out "what is," might be applied to investigate the following questions:
Do teachers hold favorable attitudes toward using computers in schools?
What is the best way to provide access to computer equipment in schools?
Descriptive research can be either quantitative or qualitative. It can involve collections of quantitative information that can be tabulated along a continuum in numerical form, such as scores on a test or the number of times a person chooses to use a-certain feature of a multimedia program, or it can describe categories of information such as gender or patterns of interaction when using technology in a group situation
The methods of collecting data for descriptive research can be employed singly or in various combinations, depending on the research questions at hand. Some of the common data collection methods applied to questions within the realm of descriptive research include surveys, interviews, observations, and portfolios.
Characteristics of descriptive research:
  1. It gathers data from a relatively large number of cases.
  2. It is essentially cross-sectional, mostly of ‘what exists’ type.
  3. It is not concerned with the characteristics of individuals but with generalized statistics of the whole population
  4. It involves clearly define problem and definite objectives, it requires an imaginative planning, a carful analysis and interpretation of data and logical and skillful reporting of the finding. 

Types of Descriptive Research
·         Survey
·         Developmental
·         Longitudinal approach
·         Cross-sectional approach
·         Case Study
·         Correlational
·         Normative
·         Observational (a.k.a. qualitative)
·         Action
·         Causal-comparative (a.k.a. ex post facto)
·         Developmental Research
·         Looks at changes in behavior or knowledge across years
·         Longitudinal designs
·         Cross-sectional designs
The Case Study
Strives for an in-depth understanding of  a single situation or phenomenon
A case can be a person, program, institution, project or a concept
Correlational
To determine if a relationship exists between two variables measured on the same individual
e.g. Age and alcohol consumption; Years in the profession and safety record
The Normative Survey
Establishes norms for abilities, performances, beliefs and attitudes on samples of people of different ages, genders and other classifications
AAHPERD Youth Fitness Test
National Children and Youth Fitness Study
Observational
Data consists of observations of people or programs
Can take place over weeks or months
Time consuming
Requires considerable training
Survey Research
Most common type of descriptive research
Tries to ascertain opinions and practices through interviews and questionnaires
Make comparisons, determine trends, reveals strengths/weaknesses, uses information for decision-making
Action Research
Conducted in the natural setting where it will be applied
Lacks some control
Results are always true for the setting
Tries to solve a problem specific to the setting
Ex Post Facto Research
“After the fact”
Uses data that have already been collected
Seeks to explain the present by looking at data from the past
Also called “causal-comparative”
e.g. summer camp injury study
Survey Research
o   The most common type of descriptive research
o   Involves determining the views or practices of a group through interviews or questionnaires
o   Administered by the researcher or through the mail
o   Survey Methods
o   Phone Interview
o   Personal Interviews
o   Administered Questionnaire
o   Distributed Questionnaire
o   Telephone Interviews
o   Less expensive
o   Can work from a central location
o   People more accessible by telephone
o   Can reach a large geographical area
o   People may respond more candidly to sensitive questions by phone
o   The Personal Interview
o   More valid because responses are more reliable
o   Greater percentage of returns
o   Interviewer tends to improve with experience
o   Do not inject your own biases
o   To get good information, you must ask good questions
Steps in Questionnaire Research
1.  Determine the objectives
2.  Delimit the sample
3.  Construct the questionnaire
4.  Conduct a pilot study
5.  Write the cover letter, if necessary
6.  Send  or administer the questionnaire
7.  Follow-up(s), if necessary
8.  Analyze the results and prepare the report
Questionnaire Design
Answer these questions before you start:
o   What do you want to know?
o   What do you want to achieve with the results?
o   What kind of information do you need?
o   Knowledge
o   Beliefs, attitudes, opinions
o   Behavior
o   Attributes
o   Types of questions
o   Open-ended questions
o   Why do you smoke?
o   Completion (Fill-in the-blank)
o   How old were you when you started smoking? ______
o   Closed questions
How many cigarettes a day do you smoke?
                a.  1-4
                b.  5-10
                c.  11-20
                d.  more than 20
Writing questions
Think through the use of each question!!
Avoid the use of jargon or abbreviations
Be specific
Use clear wording
Avoid making assumptions
Avoid bias
Avoid double-barreled questions
What is wrong?
Do you exercise regularly?
Did you have a mammogram and a Pap smear last year?
I don’t exercise because I’m lazy.
         Agree                           Disagree
Men over 40 should have a PSA test every year.  Have you had your PSA test this year?
Formatting the questionnaire
Begin with an introduction which includes
Questionnaire’s purpose
Identification of the source
Explanation of how information will be used
Assurance of confidentiality
First questions should be easy, not controversial
Arrange the questions so they flow naturally
Formatting the questionnaire
Use the same type of questions and responses throughout a series of questions on a particular topic
Place demographic questions at the end of the questionnaire
Give directions about how to answer
Circle the number of your choice
Check all that apply
Use transitional statements

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