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Descriptive research is used to describe behaviors and attributes that are observed and measured, rather than tested with an experiment.
Explain when descriptive research is useful.
Provide examples of descriptive research in psychology.
Descriptive studies do not test specific relationships between factors; however they provide information about behaviors and attributes with the goal of reaching a better understanding of the subject.
Descriptive research is a useful method of gathering information on new subjects in order to create hypotheses or of gathering information on rare phenomena.
This method of research has the advantage of studying individuals in their natural environment without the influence of the artificial aspects of an experiment. It can also be used to document rare events or conditions that could not be reproduced in a laboratory.
The most common type of descriptive research is the case study, which provides an in-depth analysis of a specific person, group, or phenomenon. While findings cannot be generalized to the overall population, they can provide important information for future research.
Research studies that do not test specific relationships between variables are called descriptive studies. These methods are used to describe general or specific behaviors and attributes that are observed and measured. In the early stages of research it might be difficult to form a hypothesis, especially when there is not any existing literature in the area. In these situations designing an experiment would be premature, as the question of interest is not yet clearly defined as a hypothesis. Often a researcher will begin with a non-experimental approach, such as a descriptive study, to gain more information about the topic, before designing an experiment to address a hypothesis .
While descriptive research cannot be generalized beyond the specific object of study, this kind of research can help psychologists gain more information about a topic, and formulate hypotheses for future experiments.
Descriptive research can be used to gain a vast, but often inconclusive, amount of information. It has the advantage of studying individuals in their natural environment without the influence of the artificial aspects of an experiment. This approach can also be used to document rare events or conditions that could not be reproduced in a laboratory.
One very important kind of descriptive research in psychology is the case study. A case study is an in-depth analysis of a person, group, or phenomenon. Case studies cannot be generalized to the overall population (as in an experiment) nor provide predictive power (as in correlational research). They do not allow researchers to identify cause and effect relationships, nor test hypotheses. They can, however, provide extensive information for the development of new hypotheses for future testing, and provide information about a rare or otherwise hard to study event or condition.
Case studies use techniques such as personal interviews, direct observation, psychometric tests, and archival records to gather information. They are often seen in clinical research, where the treatment of a specific individual is monitored to determine what is effective. For instance, a client in a mental health hospital could be studied as they progress through a course of treatment involving individual counseling, group therapy, and psychomedication. While any results from the study could only be applied to that particular client, the results could inform a future hypothesis about the relative effectiveness of such treatment options.
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Showing that a personality trait is related to growing up in a certain situation., Demonstrating that one form of treatment is more effective than another., Proving that examining an individual in a natural setting is better than a laboratory setting., and Documenting the behavior of an individual with a rare personality disorder in a natural setting.
A researcher polls many individuals about their reactions to different loud noises., A researcher establishes a test to determine if loud noises cause most people to react negatively., A researcher hypothesizes the effect of loud noises on individuals in similar situations., and A researcher observes the reactions of an individual to a variety of loud noises.
Test specific relationships between many variables., Learn limited and conclusive amounts of information., Conduct an experiment based on an existing hypothesis., and Describe general or specific behaviors and attributes that are observed and measured.