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Descriptive and correlational research Essays

Descriptive and correlational research methods are the major types of quantitative research used to collect data and if need be, determine its relationship to a certain phenomenon.  Research, interestingly, encompasses surfing the internet, watching the news and reading a factual magazine, newspaper or book as opposed to popular belief that research and experimental processes must be connected.  This paper looks at the purpose of descriptive and correlational research and their importance in examining variable of interest.

            Quantitative research is an objective research method whose basic element of analysis is numbers.  Qualitative research, on the other hand, is a subjective research method whose basic media element of analysis is ideas and words.  Whereas quantitative research refers to measures of things and statistical count, qualitative research refers to the definitions and the reasons regarding the variables of interest.  Descriptive research, the most commonly used type of quantitative research, basically involves clarifying data whereas correlational research determines the relationship between two or more variables.

            There are four basic types of quantitative researches: descriptive, correlational, causal-comparative and experimental.  Descriptive research is mainly used because it provides solutions to the “what” question, by providing raw statistical data about certain phenomena.  Although this type of research does not get to the details such as causes or reasons for certain behavior, it has been credited for providing solid, scientific data when correctly executed and interpreted by researchers.

            Some critics argue that descriptive research is not effective enough since it does not give information on why things happen and how they do so.  Such types of explanations, generally called “causal explanations” have raised concern among researchers.  However, descriptive research has been found important in certain conditions such as for instance, there are certain cases whereby you cannot manipulate the predictor variable, for example variable such as gender, race or age.  This method is also useful when you cannot ethically do an experiment because you can’t ethically manipulate the predictor variable, such as illness, poverty. Lastly, this method is useful when you want to describe or predict behavior. (Research Methods in Psychology)

            These are the reasons why these methods are used to conduct many studies. Correlation methods are used for many reasons as well.

 There are various classifications of correlation methods: Observations, Surveys and Tests; and Case study. Correlation methods are used in a limited way since as much as they show the relationship between two or more variable, they can never be used as proof that for instance, a variable influences another.  Observation, a correlation method, is used to describe behavior and suggest a theory that could be tested in an experiment.  There are certain instances where observation alone is not enough. For instance, it can be impossible to implement it in observing thoughts.  Observation can also be impractical; you cannot wait to observe an accident or a robbery.  It is through these challenges that surveys, tests and case studies are used. (Research Methods in Psychology)

Descriptive and correlational research methods are preferred due to their context free state and also the fact that they have a highly controlled experimental setting, as opposed to qualitative methods which have a process oriented, flexible approach.  The statistical data obtained is another reason many people go for these two methods because the data assists in obtaining more valid information in an easier and faster method.


Research Methods in Psychology, Retrieved on 11 November 2008 from:


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