Descriptive

This page is currently in development (July 2019).


“Descriptive research” is a phrase that characterizes one of the three mostly commonly used scientific research methods. Other common scientific research methods include comparative and experimental methods, but there are other less well known research methods as well.

To help you learn more about DESCRIPTIVE research methods, Dr. Merritt has put together a sort of journalistic introduction to this style of scientific research below.

WHO?

WHAT?

WHY?

HOW?

WHEN?

WHERE?

Descriptive research is used to describe observable and/or measurable characteristics of an object, event, or system. Descriptive research does not answer questions about “how,” “when,” or “why” these observable and/or measurable characteristics occurred. Rather, it addresses a “what” question–for example, What are the key observable and/or measurable characteristics of an ant? A star? Or, What are the key observable and/or measurable characteristics of a sunset? Or, What are the key observable and/or measurable characteristics of a pond?

Descriptive investigations are first and foremost exploratoryDescriptive investigations are typically used when little is known about a topic. In other words, their main purpose is to create a written record of the observable and/or measurable characteristics of the object, event, or system. Furthermore, descriptive investigations typically involve the systematic observation and detailed description of the object, event, or system in such a way that the description could be replicated by other scientists. To be systematic means that descriptive investigations must be characterized by both rigor and consistency. Your science teacher will talk with you in more detail about these two important terms–rigor and consistency–during your descriptive investigations.

To learn more about descriptive research, you can visit the excellent Visionlearning site, but if you’d rather begin trying to master some of the key skills and sensibilities needed to do descriptive research well, then head over to The Workshop.


Last updated: July 2019

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