Descriptive Research Article

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Descriptive research plays an important role in educational research because it has greatly increased our knowledge about what happens in the classroom. What is descriptive research? Descriptive research can involve collecting quantitative information, or it can describe categories of information such as patterns of interaction when using technology in the classroom. Although it may employ fundamentals of both quantitative and qualitative research, descriptive research does not fit neatly into the definition of either quantitative or qualitative research methodology. Descriptive research takes a “what is” approach. Types of questions that may be addressed using descriptive research include: 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 teaching? Using descriptive research methodologies with the educational setting may be advantageous for several reasons. Educational research and experiences may contain many variables that cannot be realistically controlled, educational research may require observations of life experiences, and data collection may be spread over a large number of people over a large geographic area. Descriptive research may be used most effectively within the educational setting because educational research experiences cannot be as realistically controlled as laboratory experiments. In contrast to laboratory experiences, descriptive research is valuable because it allows for the human element of research. Four of the most common ways to collect information for descriptive research include surveys, interviews, observations, and portfolios. These may be used singly or in various combinations depending on the research question to be addressed. Used in the simplest way, surveys may be used to reveal summary statistics by showing responses to all possible questionnaire items. For instance, 30% of the participants agreed, 50% disagreed, and 20% had no opinion. Descriptive results of this type are typical of survey research in education and often provide leads in identifying needed changes. Survey data may also be used to explore relationships between two or more variables. Rather than limit their research to one variable, researchers can investigate relationships in the survey data and have a more substantial research contribution. Two critical components of survey research are sound methodology and well- designed data collection instruments. Data collection instruments should be designed to collect information in a way that will yield quantifiable results, and they should be distributed to all subjects so that data can be summarized and compared. Surveys can be in the form of written questionnaires, personal interviews, or telephone interviews. Factors to be considered in choosing a data collection method include: sampling, type of population, question form, question content, response rates, costs, available facilities, length of data collection, and computer-assisted techniques for data collection. Face-to-face interviews and telephone interviews are a second method of data collection. Interviews are more time efficient, allow the research to establish a rapport with the respondent, and allow the acquisition of more in-depth information. They also allow the interviewer to observe the respondent and obtain visual cues. Disadvantages of personal interviews are that they require more staff time and travel. Telephone interviews may be particularly advantageous because they are less expensive and less time consuming. They can also employ random dialing for a more random survey sample. However, limitations exist because of limited telephone access and the interviewer’s inability to observe the respondent and obtain visual cues. Mailed questionnaires provide some particularly important...
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