Difference Between Descriptive and Experimental Research

Descriptive vs Experimental Research
 

Descriptive research and experimental research are two types of research that show some differences between them in their characteristics. When speaking of research, there are various types of research like descriptive research and experimental research. In each category, a number of research methods can be used. As the scope of this article is descriptive and experimental research, first, let us define these two researches. Descriptive research refers to research that describe a phenomenon or else a group under study. It explores different characteristics of the group or phenomenon. On the other hand, experimental research refers to research where the researcher manipulates the variable to arrive at conclusions or else to come across findings. This is the main difference between descriptive research and experimental research. Through this article let us examine the differences between these two types of research in detail. First let us begin with descriptive research.

What is Descriptive Research?

In descriptive research, the researcher makes an attempt to comprehend the different characteristics of the study group or a phenomenon. For this, the researcher can use many research methods such as surveys, interviews, observational method, case studies, etc. Through each method, the researcher can gather different types of data which will enhance his understanding of the study group.

Difference Between Descriptive and Experimental Research

A Research Interview

However, it is important to bear in mind that descriptive research does not stress on causality. It merely allows the researcher to broaden his understanding of the population. But descriptive research can provide both qualitative and quantitative data as well. For instance, through surveys the researcher can collect statistically significant data. Simultaneously, through interviews, he can collect rich qualitative data.

This highlights that in descriptive research the researcher’s main focus is to describe the population through identifying the characteristics. However, experimental research is different to descriptive research. Now, let us move on to experimental research.

What is Experimental Research?

Experimental research is a research where the variables are manipulated by the researcher to arrive at conclusions or come across findings. Unlike in the case of descriptive research, in experimental research, the focus is not on describing the population; testing the hypothesis is the main focus. There are different types of experiments such as quasi-experiments, single subject study, correlation study, etc.

Descriptive vs Experimental Research

Experiment by Louis Pasteur to test the hypothesis of spontaneous generation

Experimental research is used both in natural sciences and social sciences. However, since it involves manipulating the variables the researcher encounters many difficulties especially in the social sciences. This is because the validity of the research findings are often questioned as human behavior changes when they are aware of being observed. This can affect the research findings and produce incorrect conclusions.  This highlights that descriptive research and experimental research are different from one another. Now let us summarize the difference as follows.

What is the difference between Descriptive and Experimental Research?

Definition of Descriptive Research and Experimental Research:

Descriptive Research: Descriptive research refers to research that describe a phenomenon or else a group under study.

Experimental Research: Experimental research refers to research where the researcher manipulates the variable to arrive at conclusions or else to come across findings.

Characteristics of Descriptive Research and Experimental Research:

Focus:

Descriptive Research: Descriptive research describes the population through identifying the characteristics.

Experimental Research: Testing the hypothesis is the main focus of experimental research.

Causation:

Descriptive Research: Descriptive research does not stress on causality.

Experimental Research: Experimental research allows the researcher to find causality.

Outcome:

Descriptive Research: Descriptive research answers the question what.

Experimental Research: Experimental research answers the question why.

 

Image Courtesy:

1. Research Interview with members of Flinnthreater by Aderemi Adegbite [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

2. Experiment Pasteur English by Carmel830 – Own work. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons