Login

Descriptive Research Design: Definition, Examples & Types

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: What Is Survey Research? - Definition, Methods & Types

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:07 Definitions
  • 1:06 Observational
  • 2:33 Survey
  • 3:18 Case Study
  • 4:15 Lesson Summary
Add to Add to Add to

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Login or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Devin Kowalczyk

Devin has taught psychology and has a master's degree in clinical forensic psychology. He is working on his PhD.

This lesson explores the different ways that a researcher can understand individuals or groups of people, both in terms of psychological research as well as general research in other fields.

Descriptive Research: Definitions

Sometimes an individual wants to know something about a group of people. Maybe the individual is a would-be senator and wants to know who they're representing or a surveyor who is looking to see if there is a need for a mental health program.

Descriptive research is a study designed to depict the participants in an accurate way. More simply put, descriptive research is all about describing people who take part in the study.

There are three ways a researcher can go about doing a descriptive research project, and they are:

  • Observational, defined as a method of viewing and recording the participants
  • Case study, defined as an in-depth study of an individual or group of individuals
  • Survey, defined as a brief interview or discussion with an individual about a specific topic

Let's look at specific ways we can use each of these.

Observational

If I say, 'chimpanzees,' what do you think? Okay, after you think of bananas. Okay, after you remember that their babies are adorable. Yes! Jane Goodall - the researcher who spent years observing chimpanzees in the wild.

Observational studies are all about watching people, and they come in two flavors. Naturalistic, also known as field observation, is a study where a researcher observes the subject in its natural environment. This is basically what Jane Goodall did; she observed the chimpanzees in their natural environment and drew conclusions from this. This makes the observations more true to what happens in the chaotic, natural world. But, it also means you have less control over what happens.

The other flavor is laboratory observation, where a researcher observes the subject in a laboratory setting. This gives the researcher a little more control over what happens so they don't have to fly out to some tiny little island in the middle of a war zone to observe something. However, it does ruin some of the naturalness that one might get from field observation. An example of a laboratory observation in psychology would be done to understand something about children at a certain age, such as the process of how a child learns to speak and mimic sounds.

Survey

A survey comes in different flavors, be it interviewing people face to face or handing out questionnaires to fill out. The main difference between surveys and observations is that in a survey, you don't watch people; you ask them about themselves.

Surveys are useful because they don't take as long as an observational study since you're asking people about themselves instead of spending weeks observing them. On the other hand, if the person doesn't know very much about themselves or if they lie, then you run into a problem. For instance, if I asked you how often you pick your nose, you will likely deny you have ever done so. But, I bet you have, and I bet you do it regularly.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register for a free trial

Are you a student or a teacher?
I am a teacher
What is your educational goal?
 Back

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 10 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 95 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 2,000 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it free for 5 days!
Create An Account
Support