Research Writing

Advantages and disadvantages of descriptive research

Descriptive research

Descriptive research is a type of research that is responsible for describing the population situation or phenomenon around which his study focuses. It seeks to provide information about the what, how, when, and where of the research problem, without giving priority to answering the “why” of the problem. As its name says, this way of investigating “describes”, it does not explain. Advantages and disadvantages of descriptive research

In addition, it obtains information on the phenomenon or situation to be studied, using techniques such as observation and survey, among others. For example, research studying the morphology and mechanism of action of SARS-CoV-2 is descriptive. Answer the “what”, not the “why”.

This type of research is very useful when conducting studies, for example, when you want to know which brand of soda is most consumed in a supermarket, where you only want to know which is the most consumed, and not why it is the most consumed. consumed.

Descriptive investigations, unlike other types of investigations, carry out their study without altering or manipulating any of the variables of the phenomenon, limiting themselves only to their measurement and description. Additionally, it is possible to make future forecasts, although they are considered premature or basic.

Descriptive research characteristics

Here are some of the most important characteristics of descriptive research:

Has no control over variables

In descriptive research, the researcher has no control over any of the variables that affect the event or problem under investigation. Advantages and disadvantages of descriptive research

Existence of variables

To carry out a descriptive research, it is necessary to know in advance the variables that will be analyzed, since this type of research is not dedicated to the search for variables, but to their study.


Although, when obtaining data on the variables, it is possible to make forecasts, these are not entirely reliable, since they are considered premature.

Quantitative information

In most cases, descriptive research gets data on quantities, not qualities . It is for this reason that it can be said that a descriptive research is quantitative. Advantages and disadvantages of descriptive research

Even so, there is also the possibility of obtaining qualitative data.


As in all types of research, the data provided by descriptive research must be both accurate and reliable.

Information classification

Descriptive research can be used to classify the data collected in the study that is being carried out, separating them into different categories of description.


Usually, the cross-sectional or transectional design is the most used to carry out this type of research, although it is also possible to use the pre-experimental design. Advantages and disadvantages of descriptive research

Descriptive research design

The research design is used to draw up the work plan to follow in the research. It is where the conceptual phase of the research, such as the statement of the problem , meets the operational phase, such as the method and instruments of the investigation.

For the case of the design of a descriptive investigation, most of the time it is necessary to obtain data that refers to the quantity. To achieve this task, the researcher can choose between two different types of research designs, which have specific characteristics that differentiate them from each other.

The two types of designs used in descriptive research are described below:

Cross-sectional or  transectional design

In cross-sectional designs, the variables are not affected by any type of process, which is why they only dedicate themselves to observing the event as it happens, limiting themselves only to analyzing them. Advantages and disadvantages of descriptive research

They basically consist of making a description of the variables to be measured in a phenomenon, and analyzing the incidence at the time that event occurs.

Pre-experimental design

There are occasions where the pre-experimental design is used as a test to get a first contact with the research problem in a real way, being used, on some occasions, as a test of experiments with a greater degree of control.

This type of design does not allow to establish causal relationships, since they do not have the possibility of controlling variables, and their internal validity is not very reliable. Furthermore, it is applied only to a group, over which it has no control whatsoever.

There are two ways to carry out a pre-experimental design, which are as follows:

  • Case study with a single measurement : in this type of design, a stimulus is applied to a group and then the data obtained from the variable or variables to be measured are taken. The simplicity of the design makes it unreliable, since there is no reference to the level of the variable (s) before the stimulus is applied, as well as no control over them.
  • Test and post-test design with a single group : for this type of design, a test is carried out before and after applying the stimulus to the group, thus allowing the visualization of the differences that may exist between the measurements of the studied variable (s) . Although, using this design it is possible to differentiate the levels of the variables, before and after the stimulus is applied, it does not allow to visualize causality, since there is no comparison group, nor is there the possibility of manipulating the variables. Advantages and disadvantages of descriptive research

Techniques used in descriptive research

In the case of descriptive research, there are three techniques to carry it out:


Observation is one of the most used information, of the quantitative or qualitative type:

  • To obtain quantitative information, statistical and numerical study methodologies are used, where information about values ​​such as weight, scale and years, among others, is obtained. So it can be said that fundamentally numerical values ​​are obtained.
  • On the other hand, to obtain qualitative information, the type of data obtained does not have to do with numbers or statistics, but with the dynamics that occur in the group on which the research is being developed. Advantages and disadvantages of descriptive research

Case study

Using the case study it is possible to carry out a slightly more detailed analysis of the event, as well as to study in detail groups or subjects separately.

In addition, it is possible to present a hypothesis and to expand the degree of knowledge about the event under investigation. However, due to its low precision in forecasting, it is not possible to specify the causes and effects of the phenomenon studied.

Research survey

The research survey is one of the most widely used instruments when conducting descriptive research, where the number of samples to be taken is large. Advantages and disadvantages of descriptive research

The selection of questions should include both open and closed questions, thus guaranteeing a balance between them and making it possible to collect good quality information.

Advantages and disadvantages of descriptive research

Like all different types of research, descriptive research has both advantages and disadvantages. Some of the most important are listed below.


  • The brevity by which descriptive investigations are carried out means that their costs are not high, compared to other types of investigations.
  • It enables both the collection of quantitative data and qualitative data.
  • They allow to formulate hypotheses, as well as provide a large amount of valuable data for the development of future investigations. Advantages and disadvantages of descriptive research
  • By using descriptive research, the data is collected in the place where it occurs, without any type of alteration, ensuring the quality and integrity of the same.


  • If the questions are not well formulated, the answers obtained may not be entirely reliable, which makes it difficult to carry out a credible investigation.
  • The types of variables that allow the study of descriptive investigations make it impossible to visualize the causes and effects of the event.
  • The data obtained by conducting a descriptive research, being collected randomly, make it impossible to obtain valid data that represent the entire population.

Descriptive Research Examples

Some examples of descriptive investigations may be the following:

Penguin census

Studying the penguin population that exists in the South Georgia Islands is a descriptive investigation that answers the what and where. Advantages and disadvantages of descriptive research

National census

The research carried out in a national census is descriptive, since it is only interested in data such as the number of population, the salary they receive, or what class the household is, without making any kind of analogy between these. .


Carrying out a descriptive investigation that collects data about the political party that people will choose in the next elections, it is possible to predict, with a margin of error, the result that will be obtained in them.


Using observation, qualitative data can be collected on the habits of supermarket customers regarding the purchases they make in it. Advantages and disadvantages of descriptive research

Kids playtime

Through the resource of the survey, it is possible to carry out a descriptive investigation that yields information about the number of hours per day that children in a particular population play. Being able to make a forecast of the weather that a particular child of that city plays.

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