Descriptive research is used to describe observable and/or measurable characteristics of an object or event. 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?
Descriptive investigations are first and foremost exploratory. Descriptive 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 an object or event. Furthermore, descriptive investigations typically involve the systematic observation and detailed description of an object or event 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.
If you’re ready to begin mastering the skills and sensibilities needed to do descriptive research, then proceed to the pre-investigation workshop.
KEYWORDS: description, observation, measurement, exploration, systematic, replication, rigor, consistency
Last updated: May 2017