The Purpose of Descriptive Research
Descriptive research attempts to explain and explore while providing additional information on a given topic. Descriptive research entails describing in detail what is happening and filling in the missing parts to expand the already existing knowledge. The primary purpose of descriptive research is to describe a behavior or a given type of subject. Descriptive research does not consider specific relationships, nor does it correlate two or more variables. According to Bordens and Abbott (2002), descriptive research is primarily used to observe, describe, and document certain behaviors of a research topic.
The Primary Steps Involved in Designing and Conducting a Descriptive Research Study
Descriptive research is an orderly disciplined and scientific process that includes four main steps. First, a researcher must recognize and identify an appropriate topic of study. Second, the researcher must select an appropriate sample size of participants; a sample size of 30 or more is considered accurate. Third, the researcher must proceed to the collection of valid and reliable data. Finally, the researcher will discuss and report his/her findings.
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The Contrast between Self-Report and Observational Research
Both observational and self-report surveys are relevant to research methods because they can enable researchers to access the necessary data they require for their studies. However, there are differences between self-report surveys and observational research. One of the major contrasts between self-report and observational research is that, while self-report research requires participants to respond to a series of questions or statements about themselves, observation research involves obtaining data through watching the research participants in a given situation. Also, unlike self-report research techniques, observational research techniques allow researchers to observe the phenomenon under study in their natural setting. Also, unlike observational research, self-report surveys are time-consuming and a cheaper way to gather and collect data.
Observational research methods include collecting data through auditory, visual, tactile, and other senses. On the one hand, observational methods can be used to examine the characteristics of individuals, the verbal and nonverbal communication behaviors of individuals, skill attainment, subsequent performance, and environmental characteristics. Self-report, on the other hand, is a type of survey that is mostly used in descriptive and exploratory studies, and can make use of questionnaires and interviews. Self-report research can be used to ask participants to provide information concerning their feelings, beliefs, and attitudes.
Another major difference between these types of research is that self-report research is associated with more validity problems than observational research. Bordens and Abbott (2002) illustrate that in self-report research, it is always difficult to discern if what a person report is his or her representative behavior.
The Steps Involved in Conducting a Questionnaire Study
There are seven primary steps involved in conducting a questionnaire study. The first step involves stating the problem, and the topic should be defined regarding the specific objectives that indicate the types of needed information. The second step involves selecting participants; constructing the questionnaire, and the researcher should use an appropriate sampling technique to get participants who can willingly provide the desired information. The third step involves preparing to construct an instrument. The instrument should be brief, attractive, and easy to fill out. Here, the researcher can decide to use interviews, questionnaires, telephone calls, or observations.
Preparing the cover letter is the fourth step, and it should be neat, brief and explain the significance of the study conducted. Also, the cover should be addressed to a specific respondent. The fifth step is pre-testing the instrument. Here, a researcher should conduct a pilot study, so that he or she can gather information concerning the deficiencies for improving a given instrument. The sixth step involves following up activities because the results of the first mailing tend to be low. Finally, the researcher should analyze and report the results.
Four Major Differences between an Interview Study and a Questionnaire Study
Although interview and questionnaire data are usually reported together, there is a high degree of differences between them. The first difference involves objectivity. Bordens and Abbott (2002) illustrate that questionnaires provide a more objective research tool than interviews. On the one hand, questionnaires can be used to produce generalized results because they involve larger sample sizes than in interviews. However, factors, such as faulty questionnaire designs, biased questionnaire designs, errors in coding, and misunderstanding may place questionnaires in disrepute. Interviews, on the other hand, are not neutral tools because data used are based on personal interactions that can lead to contextually and negotiated results. The second difference involves the context they are conducted in. While interviews can provide a forum and context where the participants are allowed to ask for clarifications and elaborate ideas, questionnaires do not provide the participants with a chance to explain their perspectives.
Another difference between the two is based on the rate of response. There is a high level of no response while using questionnaires than when using an interview schedule (Creswell, 2013). The high level of no response when using questionnaires arises because some people do not respond and sometimes return the questionnaires unanswered. However, using interview schedules record very low levels of no response because the schedules are filled by the enumerators who are capable of getting answers to all questions. Lastly, the levels of personal contact between the researcher and the participant in interviews are higher than the levels of personal contact in questionnaires.
The Purpose of Correlational Research
Correlational research involves studying two variables without making an attempt to influence them, so that the researcher can obtain the relationship between those variables. Therefore, the purpose of correctional research is to obtain and explain important human behaviors or to predict the outcomes by identifying relationships between two variables. If research obtains a relationship with a significant magnitude between the two variables, then predicting the score on either of the variables under study becomes easy. Also, correlational research allows for causality for randomly selected variables to be inferred. There are three primary results of correlational studies: negative correlation, positive correlation, and no correlation (Bordens & Abbott, 2002).
The Major Steps Involved in the Basic Correlational Research Process
Basic correlational research involves four main steps. The first step is selecting the problem. Here, the researcher should select the variables to be correlated based on some rationale. The second step involves selecting the participants and the instruments. The researcher should make use of an acceptable sampling methodology with a minimum of thirty participants. The third step is the design and procedure stage. A researcher should obtain two or more scores for each sample and one score for each variable score. The final step involves data analysis and interpretation. After the two scores have been obtained, the researchers should continue to proceed to correlate them and obtain a correlation coefficient. A correlational coefficient indicates the degree of relationships between the two interest variables.
Two Factors that May Contribute to an Inaccurate Estimate of Relationship
First, inaccurate estimate relationships may be obtained during correlation studies when a researcher fails to perform a compression, as well as in-pace tests on the two variables under study. Such failures may lead to systematic biases or errors when they are used to estimate the existing correlation between the variables under study. Second, inaccurate estimate relationships may occur when a researcher fails to consider the effects of a third variable or directional problem. Two variables may seem to be related to each other, but there may also be a third variable that is the real source of relationships between the two variables (Bordens & Abbott, 2002). Researchers should, therefore, be vigilant because third variable problems are very subtle and may not be easily determined.