What is descriptive research?
It’s conclusive in nature, as opposed to exploratory. This means that descriptive research gathers quantifiable information that can be used for statistical inference on your target audience through data analysis. As a consequence, this type of research takes the form of closed-ended questions, which limits its ability to provide unique insights. However, used properly it can help an organization better define and measure the significance of something about a group of respondents and the population they represent.
When it comes to online surveying, descriptive is by far the most commonly used form of research. Most often, organizations will use it as a method to reveal and measure the strength of a target group’s opinion, attitude, or behaviour with regards to a given subject. But another common use of descriptive research would be the surveying of demographical traits in a certain group (age, income, marital status, gender, etc.). This information could then be studied at face value, measuring trends over time, or for more advanced data analysis like drawing correlations, segmentation, benchmarking, and other statistical techniques.
The trick to conducting any type of research is to gain only valuable information. In the case of online surveying, your collected data should allow you to take action on a particular problem or opportunity facing your organization. This is why it is essential to create research objectives before you jump into your survey design. Research objectives identify exactly what you are trying to discover in order to make educated decisions on the issues facing your organization. For example, let’s say a website wanted to collect visitor feedback. They could divide their research objectives based different aspects of their site, like navigation, quality of information, and aesthetics. With properly defined research objectives you’ll be able to create a questionnaire that provides relevant insights that give a clear direction towards action.
The next step to effective descriptive research is to ensure your results’ accuracy. This stems from limiting bias and error in your surveying design and research method. With sample surveys, error is unavoidable. That being said, it is important to control your margin of error and confidence levels by having a proper survey sample size.
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The different ways organizations use descriptive research is almost limitless. We already know that going into the survey design phase with research goals is critical, but how do we know that our research plan will provide fruitful information? To understand what your research goals should entail, let’s take a look at the three main ways organizations use descriptive research today:
If your research goals fit under one of these three categories, you should be on the right track. Now all you have left to do is decide how the data collected will help your organization take action on a certain issue or opportunity. Remember, conducting a successful survey is only half the battle. It is what you do with the information gathered that makes your research project useful!