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Descriptive Research

Connie McNabb
What is Descriptive Research?

 Can involve collecting quantitative information

 Can describe categories of qualitative

information such as patterns of interaction
when using technology in the classroom.

 Does not fit neatly into either category

What is
Descriptive Research?

 Involves gathering data that describe events

and then organizes, tabulates, depicts, and
describes the data.
 Uses description as a tool to organize data into
patterns that emerge during analysis.
 Often uses visual aids such as graphs and
charts to aid the reader
Descriptive Research
takes a “what is” approach

 What is the best way to provide access to

computer equipment in schools?
 Do teachers hold favorable attitudes toward
using computers in schools?
 What have been the reactions of school
administrators to technological innovations in
Descriptive Research

 Refers to the nature of the research question

 The design of the research
 The way that data will be analyzed for the topic
that will be researched
The type of research question will determine
whether descriptive research approach is
appropriate to use.
Descriptive Research Advantages
 Educational research  Data collection may be
and experiences may spread over a large
contain many variables number of people over a
that cannot be large geographic area
realistically controlled.
 Educational research
may require
observations of life
Data Collection Methods

Surveys Interviews

Observations Portfolios
Descriptive Research
1. Surveys
 May be used to reveal  May be used to explore
summary statistics by relationships between 2
showing responses to all or more variables.
possible questionnaire
 Often provide leads in
identifying needed
Descriptive Research
Critical Components

Sound Well-designed
methodology data collection
Descriptive Research
Survey Forms
 Written questionnaires Factors to be considered
 Sampling
 Personal interviews
 Type of population
 Telephone interviews  Question Form
 Question Content
 Response rates
 Costs
 Available facilities
 Length of data collection
 Computer assisted
techniques for data collection
Descriptive Research
2. Survey Form - Interviews

 More time efficient

 Allow the researcher to establish a rapport with
the respondent
 Allow the acquisition of more in-depth
 Allow for interviewer observation
 Allow the interviewer to obtain visual cues
 May be personal or telephone interviews
Descriptive Research
Survey Form – Personal Interviews

 Require more staff time
 Require more travel time
Descriptive Research
Survey Form – Telephone Interview

Advantages Disadvantages
 Less expensive  Limited telephone
 Less time-consuming access
 Lack of interviewer’s
ability to observe the
respondent and obtain
visual cues
Descriptive Research
Survey Form – Mailed Questionnaires

Advantages Disadvantages
 Ability to reach large number  Lower response rate
of people across a wide
 Need to design a survey
geographic area
 Ease and low cost of instrument with a simple
distribution format
 Minimal amount of staff
 Allows respondents to
respond in their time frame
Descriptive Research
Survey Form – Mailed Questionnaires

 A letter of transmittal should accompany mailed

 Should state purpose and importance of research
 Should state importance of responding
 Should give a time frame to respond
 Should include a confidentiality statement
 Should include an offer to share results
 Should include a thank-you note to the respondent
Descriptive Research
Characteristics of a Good Survey

 Good questioning techniques

 Use complete sentences
 Offer a limited set of answers
 Interesting
 Worded so that questions mean the same to all
 Provide definitions for confusing terms
 Uses the “I don’t know” answer very carefully
Descriptive Research
3. Observational Research Methods

1. Naturally occurring behaviors observed in

natural contexts
2. Contexts that are contrived to be realistic
Descriptive Research
Observational Research Methods

 Require direct observation of behavior

 Data gathered without intermediary
 Can yield a wealth of invaluable information
 Can be a complicated process
Descriptive Research
Observational Research Methods

 Can be employed productively to support many

purposes in educational technology
 Can be used to determine how people interact
with technology in various stages of design and
Descriptive Research
Observation Research Methods
 How do learners interact with a specific program?
 How do learners interact with a new hardware system?

Observation makes it possible to explore the

implementation of a particular technological innovation
and assess the instructional outcomes.
Descriptive Research
Observational Research Methods

 2 Forms of Observational Research

– Structured
– Unstructured
Descriptive Research
Observational Research Methods

Structured Observations Unstructured Observations

 Rigid and controlled  Used to determine
unselective, detailed,
 Predetermined methods
continuous description of
 Detects unintended effects
 More time consuming
because of time and labor
required to collect and
analyze sets of extensive
Descriptive Research
Observational Research Methods

Develop observation form

 May be paper and pencil or electronic
 May use a rating scale to evaluate behavior
 A 3-point rating scale is sufficient
Descriptive Research
Observational Research Methods

Newer Mediated Observation Techniques

 Audio
 Videotape
 Computers provide on-line monitoring (process of
capturing characteristics of the human-computer
interaction automatically)
– Keystroke records
– Audit trails
– Logging data
Descriptive Research
4. Portfolios

 Provide a descriptive measure of student work

based on actual performance
 Consist of learner-created products that reflect
the processes of learning and development
over time
Impact and Future of
Descriptive Research

 Although descriptive studies are important,

most educational studies involve questions
about cause.
– What causes underachievement?
– Will multimedia cause students to be more
motivated or lead to high achievement levels?
Impact and Future of
Descriptive Research

 Not always easy to isolate variable that will

explain those causes, so descriptive research
can play an important role in providing
information from another perspective.
 By gathering descriptions of “what is” and
comparing them to “what we would like”
educators can see the area that needs to be
Impact and Future
of Descriptive Research

 Descriptive Research methods have gained

 Number of descriptive studies published in
research journals has increased
 Descriptive research leads to prescriptions that
instructional designers and educators can heed
as they consider future direction
Descriptive Research

The End