This story. Lesson Summary Descriptive research is

This lesson explores the different ways that a researcher can understand individuals or groups of people, both in terms of psychological research as well as general research in other fields.

Descriptive Research: Definitions

Sometimes an individual wants to know something about a group of people. Maybe the individual is a would-be senator and wants to know who they’re representing or a surveyor who is looking to see if there is a need for a mental health program.Descriptive research is a study designed to depict the participants in an accurate way.

More simply put, descriptive research is all about describing people who take part in the study.There are three ways a researcher can go about doing a descriptive research project, and they are:

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  • Observational, defined as a method of viewing and recording the participants
  • Case study, defined as an in-depth study of an individual or group of individuals
  • Survey, defined as a brief interview or discussion with an individual about a specific topic

Let’s look at specific ways we can use each of these.

Observational

If I say, ‘chimpanzees,’ what do you think? Okay, after you think of bananas. Okay, after you remember that their babies are adorable.

Yes! Jane Goodall – the researcher who spent years observing chimpanzees in the wild.Observational studies are all about watching people, and they come in two flavors. Naturalistic, also known as field observation, is a study where a researcher observes the subject in its natural environment.

This is basically what Jane Goodall did; she observed the chimpanzees in their natural environment and drew conclusions from this. This makes the observations more true to what happens in the chaotic, natural world. But, it also means you have less control over what happens.The other flavor is laboratory observation, where a researcher observes the subject in a laboratory setting.

This gives the researcher a little more control over what happens so they don’t have to fly out to some tiny little island in the middle of a war zone to observe something. However, it does ruin some of the naturalness that one might get from field observation. An example of a laboratory observation in psychology would be done to understand something about children at a certain age, such as the process of how a child learns to speak and mimic sounds.

Survey

A survey comes in different flavors, be it interviewing people face to face or handing out questionnaires to fill out. The main difference between surveys and observations is that in a survey, you don’t watch people; you ask them about themselves.Surveys are useful because they don’t take as long as an observational study since you’re asking people about themselves instead of spending weeks observing them. On the other hand, if the person doesn’t know very much about themselves or if they lie, then you run into a problem.

For instance, if I asked you how often you pick your nose, you will likely deny you have ever done so. But, I bet you have, and I bet you do it regularly.

Case Study

Case studies are a little more in-depth than an observation and typically a little more holistic. So, instead of just watching chimps frolic in the field, you may be interested in a particular chimp that was born an albino or a troop of chimps that are interacting with people. You are attempting to study something more in depth. If you have people involved in the study, it is a combination of the observation and survey method.

Case studies are more often used when a researcher encounters a rare issue that they cannot recreate on their own. For instance, if someone had a rod of metal blasted through their skull and survived, we would likely do a case study on him. We cannot ethically recreate this issue, so we have to study it when it comes up. This is the case of Phineas Gage, to some extent. A full case study was not done on him, so there are a lot of issues and retellings of his story.

Lesson Summary

Descriptive research is a study designed to depict the participants in an accurate way.

The three main ways to collect this information are:

  • Observational, defined as a method of viewing and recording the participants
  • Case study, defined as an in-depth study of an individual or group of individuals
  • Survey, defined as a brief interview or discussion with the individuals about a specific topic

Learning Outcomes

After watching this video lesson, you might be able to:

  • Realize the purpose of descriptive research
  • Mention three ways to do descriptive research
  • Emphasize two types of observational research
  • Note the contrasts between case studies and observations
  • Highlight ways of performing survey research
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