As the name implies, the objective of descriptive research studies is to provide a comprehensive and detailed explanation of the phenomena under study. The intended objective might be to give a detailed sketch or profile of the respondent population being studied.
For example, to design an advertising and sales promotion campaign for high-end watches, a marketer would require a holistic profile of the population that buys such luxury products. Thus a descriptive study, (which generates data on who, what, when, where, why and how of luxury accessory brand purchase) would be the design necessary to fulfill the research objectives.
Descriptive research thus is conclusive studies. However, they lack the precision and accuracy of experimental designs, yet it lends itself to a wide range of situations and is more frequently used in business research. Based on the time period of the collection of the research information
Descriptive research is subdivided into two categories:
As the name suggests, cross-sectional studies involve a slice of the population. Just as in scientific experiments one takes a cross-section of the leaf or the cheek cells to study the cell structure under the microscope, similarly one takes a current subdivision of the population and studies the nature of the relevant variables being investigated.
There are two essential characteristics of cross-sectional studies:
- The cross-sectional study is carried out at a single moment in time and thus the applicability is most relevant for a specific period.
- Secondly, these studies are carried out on a section of respondents from the population units under study. This sample is under consideration and under investigation only for the time coordinate of the study.
A single sample of the identified population that is studied over a longer period of time is termed as a longitudinal study design. A panel of consumers specifically chosen to study their grocery purchase pattern is an example of a longitudinal design.
There are certain distinguishing features of the same:
- The study involves the selection of a representative panel, or a group of individuals that typically represent the population under study.
- The second feature involves the repeated measurement of the group over fixed intervals of time. This measurement is specifically made for the variables under study.
- A distinguishing and mandatory feature of the design is that once the sample is selected, it needs to stay constant over the period of the study.