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These types of experiments are often used by anthropologists, psychologists and social scientists to observe natural behaviors without affecting them in any way.
Case studies and surveys can also be specified as popular data collection methods used with descriptive studies.
Research questions in descriptive studies typically start with ‘What is…”.
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Moreover, “descriptive studies may be characterised as simply the attempt to determine, describe or identify what is, while analytical research attempts to establish why it is that way or how it came to be”.
Descriptive research is “aimed at casting light on current issues or problems through a process of data collection that enables them to describe the situation more completely than was possible without employing this method.” In its essence, descriptive studies are used to describe various aspects of the phenomenon.Descriptive research is often used as a pre-cursor to quantitative research designs, the general overview giving some valuable pointers as to what variables are worth testing quantitatively.Quantitative experiments are often expensive and time-consuming so it is often good sense to get an idea of what hypotheses are worth testing.Because there are no variables manipulated, there is no way to statistically analyze the results.Many scientists regard this type of study as very unreliable and ‘unscientific’.In addition, the results of observational studies are not repeatable, and so there can be no replication of the experiment and reviewing of the results.Descriptive research design is a valid method for researching specific subjects and as a precursor to more quantitative studies.Whilst there are some valid concerns about the statistical validity, as long as the limitations are understood by the researcher, this type of study is an invaluable scientific tool.Whilst the results are always open to question and to different interpretations, there is no doubt that they are preferable to performing no research at all.Some primary methods used in descriptive research are case-study, correlational and survey methods.Knowing this, look to current controversial trends in society as possible topics.