Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Purpose of Descriptive Research

The most basic form of Research involves the description of the forms, actions, changes over time of the natural and non-natural phenomena. It also involves the description of similarities with other phenomena. The description of phenomena has led scientists to many scientific discoveries. For example the description of some parts of the universe by astronomers have led to the discovery of the structure of the solar system and the prediction of lunar eclipses.

Descriptive research in education involves the description of educational phenomena. Description viewed in research as understanding what people or things mean is an important goal in qualitative research. For this reason it is important  to know the qualitative and quantitative approaches in the planification of descriptive studies. This allows to make the best choices in undertaking descriptive research.

Descriptive studies primarily determine "what is". As examples some of the possible questions of being studied in descriptive studies are: What kinds of activities occur in a ninth grade science class and how frequently do they occur? What were the reactions of school administrators to innovations in teaching Biology?

Most educational studies tend to discover cause and effect relationships and testing new educational methods and programs. Researchers have to describe an educational phenomenon first before attempting to explain or change it. Some educational reforms took place with the findings of some descriptive studies. Some educational books like Life in Classrooms by Philip Jackson, The Good High School by Sara Lawrence Lightfoot and A Place Called School are based on descriptive studies.

Researchers administer questionnaires and interviews to a sample of research participants in order to collect data for their descriptive studies. This type of research called survey research leads to knowledge of opinions, attitudes and practices. Such knowledge has helped in shaping educational policies and initiatives to change existing conditions.

In summary the description of natural and non-natural phenomena involves the description of their forms, actions, changes over time and similarities with other phenomena. This type of research has led to important discoveries in astronomy. The description of different parts of the universe has led to important discoveries about this universe. Descriptive research viewed as understanding what people or things mean is used both in quantitative and qualitative research. Descriptive research means also understanding what exists by asking questions. Descriptive educational studies tend to discover cause and effect relationships and testing new educational methods and programs. Many educational reforms took place with the results of descriptive research studies. Some books written by educators are the results of descriptive studies. Researchers use questionnaires and interviews to collect data about their descriptive studies. The findings of such studies lead to the establishment of policies and initiatives to change conditions. It can be noted that conditions can be worsened if it is poorly designed and its philosophy doesn't lead to results that truly benefits the majority of people. Such type of research can lead to authoritarian and non democratic policies that don't lead to meaningful changes for the majority but reinforce the privileges of a minority.         

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