Advantage & Disadvantage of descriptive research

Limitations: Descriptive studies cannot be used to establish causality. Respondents may answer survey questions insincerely or provide socially desirable responses. Question selection and survey wording can affect descriptive results.
One of its main limitations is that it does not help identify specific behaviors, motivations, or causes of problems. That is, causal relationships between variables cannot be established.

descriptive research

Descriptive research is the type of research that is responsible for explaining the population context or phenomenon that his research focuses on. It tries to provide information about the what, how, when, and where of the research problem, without prioritizing the “why” of the problem. As the name suggests, this questionnaire is “descriptive” and not descriptive.

In addition, we obtain information about the phenomena and conditions of research subjects through methods such as observation and investigation. For example, studies on the morphology and mechanism of action of SARS-CoV-2 are descriptive. Answer “what” instead of “why”.

This type of research is useful, for example, if you want to know the most consumed beverage brand in a supermarket or if you want to know the most consumed but least popular brand. consumption.

Descriptive research differs from other types of research in that it does not alter or manipulate the variables of the phenomenon and is limited to measurement and description. Furthermore, it is possible to make predictions about the future, even if they are considered too early or too radical.

Descriptive research characteristics

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

Has no control over variables

In descriptive research, researchers do not control for variables that affect the event or problem being investigated. What are the advantages and disadvantages of descriptive research?

Existence of variables

Descriptive research requires prior knowledge of the variable being analyzed. Because this type of research focuses on studying variables rather than finding them.


Predictions can be made by collecting data on variables, but these predictions are considered premature and therefore not completely reliable.

Quantitative information

In most cases, descriptive research obtains quantitative rather than qualitative data. This is why descriptive research is called quantitative research. What are the advantages and disadvantages of descriptive research?

However, qualitative data can be obtained.


As with any kind of research, the data provided by descriptive research must be accurate and reliable.

Information classification

Descriptive research can be used to categorize data collected in ongoing research and classify them into different descriptive categories.


Usually, the cross-sectional or transactional 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 transactional 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 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 the establishment of 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 for visualization of 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 techniques when conducting descriptive research. In addition, it allows obtaining data, or 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 us to formulate of 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 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 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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