Descriptive Research

Descriptive research questions: Definition, examples and designing methodology


Table of Contents

Conducting thorough market research is all about framing the right questions that provide accurate answers to research questions. The two main categories of questions namely: Quantitative and Qualitative questions focus on differential aspects. 

While quantitative research questions are based on numerical data that provides a substantial backing to the decision making process, qualitative research questions aim to derive insights based on textual responses. Both these questions are used based on their relevance and suitability to meet end objectives of the user. 

One such useful quantitative question type are the descriptive research questions.

What is descriptive research?

Descriptive research questions aim to provide a description of the variable under consideration. It is one of the easiest and commonly used ways to quantify research variables. 

Questions that begin with:

  • How much: How much time does an average teenager spend on watching documentaries on OTT platforms?

Variable: time spent on watching documentaries 

Group: Teenagers

  • How often: How often do you take an international family trip in a year?

Variable: International trips 

Group: Families

  • How likely: How likely is it for a person to purchase life insurance within the age group of 20-26?

Variable: Likelihood of purchasing a life insurance

Group: People within the age group of 20-26

  • What percentage: What percentage of high school students exercise on a daily basis?

Variable: Daily Exercise

Group: High School Students 

  • How many: How many smartphone users make use of curated apps to manage daily tasks?

Variable: Usage of curated apps 

Group: Smartphone users 

  • What proportion: What proportion of students prefer online education to offline education?

Variable: Educational format

Group: Students

  • How regularly: How regularly does a woman engage or purchase from a cosmetic brand outlet as against e-commerce websites?

Variable: Purchasing Behaviour of cosmetics

Group: Women

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  • What is: What is the ratio of passengers indulging in train travel to travelling by flight?

Variable: Travelling medium

Group: Passengers

  • What are: What are the influencing factors that impact the choice of purchasing a house in the UK?

 Variable: Influencing factors 

Group: UK property investors/ New buyers

Among other such phrases are all classified as descriptive questions. By gathering sufficient responses to such questions, end users are able to make intelligent decisions based on hard figures that help in gathering stakeholder confidence. 

For example: What percentage of college students make use of e-libraries for their academic needs. In this example the variable under observation is usage of e-libraries and the group that is evaluated are the college going students.


By providing percentages, averages, sum, proportions and other such figures, descriptive research questions provide a complete view of the target groups responses with respect to that variable. The above example has restricted the usage of variables to one, but many researchers alternatively choose to incorporate multiple variables under a single head.

Why are descriptive research questions important?

Descriptive research questions are a systematic methodology that helps in understanding the what, where, when and how. Important variables can be rigidly defined using descriptive research, unlike qualitative research where the subjectivity in responses makes it relatively difficult to get a grasp on the overall picture. The multiple methods available allow for in-person as well as online research to be carried out based on whatever the need of the end user is. 

The data provided by descriptive research assists comprehensive understanding by providing an in-depth view of the variable that is being studied. 

Steps to conduct Cluster Sampling

These are the following steps used to perform single-stage cluster sampling:

  1. Decide on a target population and desired sample size.
  2. Divide the target population into clusters based on a specific criteria.
  3. Select clusters using methods of random selection while keeping in mind the desired sample size.
  4. Collect data from the final sample group.

Further steps may be taken using two-stage or multistage sampling to achieve desired sample size if it cannot be achieved through one-stage sampling.

Types of descriptive research questions?

Descriptive research questions has divisions based on multiple business applications:

Market performance:

Descriptive research questions can be centred around organizational market performance in terms of sales figures, competitive appeal, updated practices, market share analytics, concept studies and other data collection processes that intend to gather market know-how. Target market analysis can also be done using descriptive question types wherein organizations can precisely define their niche audience.

Consumer behaviour:

Consumer perceptions and ideas about what suits them best can be understood using descriptive question types. These studies are used to design curated products that meet target market requirements. Anything from products, services, offers, incentives, promotions and marketing, pricing, packaging, feedback mechanism can be put into perspective and gauged to extract material results.


Internal trends:

While market performance looks at external variables, internal trends focus on departmental contributions, revenue generation, product specific demands, sales figures etc. This internal summary helps appraise performance within the organization and contrast it with external performance for benchmarking purposes.


How to frame descriptive research questions?

There is no rocket science behind framing the right question for your variable. It’s just a matter of figuring out what you want to assess and the numerical measure you’re looking for. The usage of descriptive questions in your study also comes with the condition of keeping the entire process concise and to the point. 

To start off, figure out the variable that you wish to gauge and the target group that needs to be evaluated. This will determine the centre point of your research questions. Avoid providing vague descriptions and instead, try narrowing the details. Such a practice will direct the questioning to the exact audience you wish to examine without adding in unnecessary responses.

Choose the starting phrase that encompasses what you’re looking to measure. For example: If you’re looking to examine or separate a certain type of person from the entire target audience, phrases such as “what proportion” or “what percentage” can prove highly useful.

Questioning tips:

  • Proceed from general to specific questions while making sure that you don’t lose focus of your target variable and audience. 
  • Avoid using ambiguous terminologies that are likely to confuse your respondents into misunderstanding questions as this can adversely affect the quality of your responses.
  • Keep the questions simple and easy to understand in such a way that all targeted respondents are able to grasp the overall meaning equally. 
  • Avoid leading questions that skew the respondent into answering a certain way. Research is all about getting the information that you want in an authentic manner and such questions can sway the respondent into giving artificial responses.

Make sure that your answer choices are balanced. This is another bias that forces the respondent into altering their actual responses. Try to provide equal representation to all possible answers such that the probability of receiving each response is equally likely.

Lastly, look for variables of questions that you can club together without affecting the overall questioning process. However, it is often useful to bifurcate combined questions wherever you can, combining relevant questions together can provide useful information about existing relationships. This goes without saying that such clubbing must not act as a hindrance to the understanding of these variables as separate characteristics.

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