Lesson 1: Meaning, Purpose and Types of Descriptive Research 

Descriptive research refers to the method of  describing a population, situation or phenomenon accurately in a systematic manner. It can answer what, where, when and how questions, but not why questions. It uses several varieties of research methods to investigate one or more variables and the researcher only observes and measures them but does not control or manipulate any of the variables.


1. Glass & Hopkins, 1984: Descriptive research involves gathering data that describe events and then organises, tabulates, depicts, and describes the data collection.

2. Williams, 2007: Descriptive research is research design used to examine the situation involving identification of attributes of a particular phenomenon based on an observational basis.

3. Creswell, 1994: Descriptive method is a research method that tries to describe phenomenon, occurrence, event, that happens in the present. The descriptive method of research is to gather information about present existing conditions. 

4. Best and Kahn, 2006: a research design which aims at describing, recording, analysing and interpreting existing conditions that yield valid and reliable education research results.

5. Wikipedia: Descriptive research is used to describe characteristics of a population or phenomenon being studied. It does not answer questions about how/when/why the characteristics occurred. Rather it addresses the “what” question (what are the characteristics of the population or situation being studied?).

6. Calderon (2012): Descriptive research is a purposive process of gathering, analysing, classifying and tabulating data about prevailing conditions, practices, beliefs, processes, trends and cause effect relationships and the making adequate and accurate interpretation about such data with or without the aid of statistical methods.

7. Manuel & Medel, 1976: Descriptive Research involves the description, recording, analysis, and interpretation of the present nature, composition or processes of phenomena.

8. Nassaji, 2015: Descriptive research is the research design in which data is collected in a qualitative manner and analyzed using quantitative procedures.

9. Dr YP Aggarwal, 2008: Descriptive research is a survey design devoted to the gathering of information about prevailing conditions or situations for the purpose of description and interpretation.

10. Siedlecki, 2020: Descriptive research is used to describe individuals, events and conditions of the subject without manipulation.

Purpose of Descriptive Research:

1. To give an accurate description of the characteristics of a certain group or phenomenon such as adolescents, a specific species of animals, a culture, and the like. 

2. To make predictions pertaining to a certain group or phenomenon on the basis of prevailing conditions like the increase in population rate by 2025 or the growth of pandemic in the coming years. 

3. To study common or specific traits in a particular group of population such as the number of students participating in a charity drive. 

4. To form principles and generalisations in behavioural sciences. 

5. To conduct an in depth study of a phenomenon and provide better and clearer understanding of the same. 

6. To provide a base for decision making.

7. To establish standard norms of behaviour, conduct, or performance. 

8. To reveal abnormal conditions or problems in a certain phenomenon. 

Types of Descriptive Research: 

1. Survey Research: It is the method of collecting data through self-administered or interviewer-administered questionnaires.

2. Observational Research: It is the process of observing and collecting data on a particular population or phenomenon without manipulating variables or controlling conditions. The research can be conducted in naturalistic settings or controlled laboratory settings.

3. Case Study Research: It focuses on a single individual, group, or event. It involves collecting detailed information on the subject through a variety of methods, including interviews, observations, and examination of documents.

4. Focus Group Research: It is the process of focusing on a small group of people to discuss a particular topic or product. Furthermore, the group is usually moderated by a researcher and the discussion is recorded for later analysis.

5. Ethnographic Research: It is the process of conducting detailed observations of a particular culture or community to gain a deep understanding of the beliefs, behaviours, and practices of a particular group.

Descriptive research design can be regarded as a powerful method used by scientists and researchers to gather information about a particular group or phenomenon.