Introduction to Descriptive Design Research 

Introduction to Descriptive Design Research 

Descriptive design research explains phenomena, populations, or situations through patterns of behavior. This is done through the collection of data via observation, surveys, interviews, and experiments. Descriptive design research answers questions about what is happening and why.  

In-depth research is conducted with the intent of learning as much as possible about a subject. Widely seen in the fields of social sciences and health sciences. Now seen in other areas such as business, education, and economics.  

According to Creswell, the descriptive research design is a study that describes the characteristics of a population or phenomenon being studied. Primarily used to gain an understanding of a group or phenomenon. This involves collecting data through surveys, interviews, or observation. Descriptive research designs answer “Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How.” 

Characteristics of Descriptive Design Research 

The descriptive design research would entail the following characteristics:  

  • Usability: The usability is by observing and describing the behavior of the subject. This is without influencing it in any way. 
  • Non-Experimental: This research is non-experimental in nature. It does not involve any manipulation of variables. 
  • Process: There is a collection of large amounts of data. These can be through interviews, observations, surveys, and/or questionnaires, and other sources. 
  • Analysis: Seeks to describe, analyze, and explain phenomena in detail. 
  • Requirement: This includes answering questions related to the characteristics of a population/phenomenon. 
  • Control: is usually used when a researcher has limited control over the variables of interest and can only observe them. 
  • Aim: is used to gain a better understanding of a phenomenon and to form hypotheses for further investigation. 

Descriptive Design Research Examples 

Let’s take an example where researchers use descriptive design research:  

Suppose a researcher surveys a sample of college students to know what influences their decision to attend college. The researcher would ask questions such as:  

Q. What led you to decide to attend college?  

Q. How supportive were your family and friends of your decision?  

Q. What do you aim to get out of college?  

The researcher would then analyze the responses. In an effort to learn what makes some pupils more likely to go to college than others, we conducted a survey. 

On the whole, a researcher can use descriptive design research, include: 

  • A study that describes the prevalence of anxiety among college students. 
  • A survey that describes the attitudes of employees towards their workplace. 
  • An observational study that describes the behavior of customers in a retail store. 
  • A cross-sectional study that describes the health behaviors of a particular population. 
  • A longitudinal study that describes changes in cognitive function among older adults. 
ALSO READ: Cross-sectional versus Longitudinal Studies 

Types of Descriptive Design Research Surveys  

Descriptive design research classifies into the following types: 

Census Survey   

A census survey collects data from every member of a population. In this research method, the researchers account for the whole population of a specific area. After which, they analyze age, gender, income, occupation, and other demographic information. 

Sample Survey  

A sample survey gathers data on a selected population. In effect, this is to gain a better understanding of its characteristics through questions. In this case, questions explore characteristics of the population like demographics, behaviors, attitudes, beliefs, etc.  

Comparative Survey 

A comparative survey involves the comparison of two or more entities. Therefore, this type of research identifies the similarities and differences between the entities. On the whole, to gain further insights into their respective characteristics.  

Comparative surveys explore topics such as customer satisfaction, product preferences, and employee attitudes. 

Longitudinal Survey  

A longitudinal survey is a collection of repeated observations on the same subjects. It identifies changes over a period of time. This survey explores the relationships between variables. These surveys often study the effects of aging, career development, and health outcomes. 

Cross-Sectional Survey  

In this research method, a sample from a population is taken and studied by the researchers at one specific time. It can be either single-variable or multivariable research.  

Cross-sectional surveys collect the population’s attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors at a particular time. 

When is it best to conduct a descriptive survey? 

Below is an example of a market research goal that can be met using a descriptive survey design. Survey research design provides researchers with the data they need to make educated judgments that will ultimately benefit the development of their organization. 

Define a distinct client type profile with the use of a descriptive survey design. For instance, a cosmetics business can use a descriptive survey to categorize customers into groups based on their characteristics. 

In order to learn how consumers feel about a given brand or product, one must: 

  • Customers’ opinions on the unique selling proposition (USP) of your products and services can be gleaned through the usage of this research methodology
  • You can conduct market research by asking customers what they like and don’t like about your product’s design, color scheme, packaging, etc. 
  • A descriptive survey design can help you figure out what kind of customer acts in a certain way so you can better understand their motivations and preferences. For instance, a health drink manufacturer would inquire how many of their consumers also buy tea. Customers can be categorized in this way for more precise marketing. 
  • Customers can shed light on shopping behaviors and the factors that influence purchases, which can be used to make educated predictions. 
  • Customers are more likely to make purchases in November and December, according to surveys, because of the holidays and the approaching new year.  
  • Companies can utilize the results of these surveys to anticipate sales and prepare for an influx of clients. 
ALSO READ: MaxDiff Analysis: How Businesses Can Implement it? 

Steps to Conduct Descriptive Design Research 

To list the steps involved in conducting descriptive design research: 

  1. Identify the question: it is essential to identify the research problem or question. This is so that the researchers have clarity about the goal of the study.  
  1. Develop a research design: The next step is to develop a research design. You should determine the data type you will collect and the methods you will use to analyze the data. 
  1. Collect the data: Data collection methods include surveys, interviews, observations, or other methods. 
  1. Analyze the data: The data analysis includes summarizing the data. For this, creating graphs or charts to visualize the data is mandatory. 
  1. Interpret the results: The final step is to interpret the results of the study. That involves summarizing the findings and discussing the implications of the results. 

Advantages of Descriptive Design Research 

Descriptive design research has several advantages, including: 

  • Provides a detailed and accurate description of a particular phenomenon or situation. 
  • Generates hypotheses for future research. 
  • Identify patterns or trends in the data. 

Limitations of Descriptive Design Research 

Descriptive design research also has some limitations, including: 

  • Limited in its ability to identify causal relationships between variables. 
  • It may not provide insight into why a particular phenomenon is occurring. 
  • It may not be generalizable to other populations or situations. 


In conclusion, descriptive design is an efficient method for performing research. It explores relationships between variables and draws meaningful conclusions from the data collected. The descriptive design provides an in-depth understanding of the hypothesis. This helps researchers get conclusive findings and make informed decisions.  

Descriptive design research is a valuable method because it analyzes a particular situation. Not to mention, it provides an accurate description of a particular population, behavior, or condition. Despite its drawbacks, this approach is a powerful means of discovering trends and gaining understanding. 


Is descriptive design research the same as qualitative research? 

No, descriptive design research is not the same as qualitative research. It can involve qualitative methods of collecting data, such as interviews or focus groups. In this case, descriptive design research also has quantitative methods, such as surveys or observational studies. 

How is descriptive design research different from experimental research? 

Descriptive design research focuses on analyzing a particular phenomenon or situation. Another key point, it focuses on identifying causal relationships between variables. 

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