Descriptive Research

Descriptive vs experimental research

Exclusive Step by Step guide to Descriptive Research

Get ready to uncover the how, when, what, and where questions in a research problem


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Descriptive research and experimental research are both types of quantitative research. Quantitative research refers to the process of analyzing data in its numeric form. The objective of quantitative research is to examine social phenomena by collecting objective data. 

But there is a difference in the way descriptive research and experimental research are performed and the insights they deliver. We will explore how different the two research types are from one another. 

Before we jump into exploring descriptive vs experimental research, let’s define the two types.

What is Descriptive Research?

Descriptive research is a method to describe the demographics of the research variables. The demographics being “why, what, when, how” regarding the subject variable. Rather than limiting its approach to qualitative or quantitative, descriptive research is mostly observational. The reason being obvious, the variables are not influenced by any external variables and are observed to derive results from it. 

Descriptive research aims to statistically analyze the data collected through observations and surveys or case studies. The variables that are being observed are not controlled. As descriptive research digs out the patterns in the data, it helps researchers get future insights depending on the pattern. 

Methods of descriptive research:

  • Observation – as the name suggests, this includes observing a variable in the study. It can be qualitative or quantitative in nature. Quantitative observations will give data that is numerically represented, whereas qualitative observations are more brief and long to analyze. 

For example, a company owner decides to implement new soft skill training among the employees. After the training is over he observes their speech and performance to figure out how effective the training program was. 

  • Surveys – are the most common form of gathering feedback from the customers. This includes questionnaires regarding the topic which the responders will answer. It can be conducted online as well as offline and provides vast areas of channels to circulate them through. 

The main advantage of surveys is that it gets your hands on large amounts of data in a short time span. 

For example, a company owner wants to get feedback on a recent meeting. He will ask both open-ended as well as close-ended questions.

  • Case studies – it is a deep study of an individual or group. It helps your frame hypothesis or theories. As it studies a natural phenomenon, researchers’ biases are avoided. Another reason is, a not-so-genuine responder. It would be unfair to study this responder who is a lot different from the general population and then generalize his results to the entire population. 

For example, a company owner studies an employee who travels far to come to the office. He may have a different experience with his traveling and its effect on his work, then the other employees. 

Descriptive Research

What is Experimental Research?

Experimental research is a scientific approach to dealing with two or more variables. It is basically an experiment conducted to bring out the cause-effect relationship between those variables. 

The experiment has two groups, a treatment group, and a control group. A researcher starts an experiment by keeping a problem statement in mind, and that includes a control variable. The treatment group undergoes the changes that the researcher wants to experiment with, and the control group doesn’t go through any treatment. At the end of the experiment, the researcher concludes how the independent variable affects the dependent variable when the course is changed. 

Experimental research aims to help you make meaningful insights out of the gathered data. It is useful in testing your hypothesis and making decisions about it. Experimental research is said to be successful when the manipulation of the independent variable brings about a change in the variable that is under study. 

Methods of experimental research:

Pre-experimental Design

It is sort of a dry run before a true experiment takes place. It studies one or two groups when they are put under the researcher’s treatment. This gives an idea of whether the treatment will solve the problem at hand or not. And if yes, then what is the right way to carry out the experiment when it actually takes place. 

The 3 kinds are; 

  • One-shot case study research design
  • One-group pretest-posttest research design
  • Static group comparison 

[Related read: Pre-experimental Design]

True-experimental Research Design  

It is hypothesis-testing research, which at the end of the study, will either support or refute the hypothesis. You can say this research is based on the foreground of the pre-experimental research. 

True experiments work on hypothesis testing with the help of independent and dependent variables, pre-testing and post-testing, treatment groups and control groups, and control variables. In addition to that, the samples are selected at random. 

For example, a teacher wants to know the average maths marks of her class. She will randomly select students to take the math test. 

Quasi-experimental Research  

It is similar to a true experiment but surely not the same. Just like true experiments, it also includes independent and dependent variables, pre-tests and post-tests, and treatment and control groups. 

The major difference is that it does not include randomization of samples and control variables. As a result of which, the participants are assigned to the experimental groups through a study that decides which participants to put in which experimental group. 

For example, a teacher wants to know how her class is doing in math, but more importantly, she wants to study the students that have an average score on a math test. So she will select only those students who have an average score in math. 

Descriptive Vs. Experimental Research

  • Definition 

Descriptive research is a method that describes a study or a topic. It defines the characteristics of the variable under research and answers the questions related to it. 

Whereas experimental research is a scientific approach to testing a theory or a hypothesis using experimental groups and control variables. 

  • Usage 

Descriptive research will help you gather data on a subject or understand a population or group. 

Experimental research will help you establish a cause-effect relationship between two or more variables. 

  • Aim 

Descriptive research aims towards studying the demographics related to a subject group. Experimental research aims to test hypotheses and theories, which include cause-effect variables. 

  • Approach 

Descriptive research is sociological and psychological in nature. 

Experimental research uses a more scientific experimental approach to test the problems. 

Both of them differ in terms of external interventions. Descriptive research doesn’t face any, while experimental research has control variables. 

  • Method to gather data

In descriptive research, the study can be done by collecting qualitative and quantitative data types. 

But when it comes to experimental research, the data has to be quantitative in nature. 

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Descriptive Vs. Experimental Research: Comparison Chart

Point of Difference

Descriptive Research

Experimental Research


Uses observation to measure attributes & behavior.

Manipulates variables to reach conclusions.




Offers insights on 




Identify the characteristics

Focus is on hypothesis






Despite falling under the types of quantitative research, descriptive research & experimental research differ significantly. This concludes all points of difference between the two research types. Next time you have to decide which research method, you can refer to this blog.

Wondering what will be the cost of conducting survey research using Voxco?


The main difference between the two is that – descriptive research is a qualitative or quantitative approach dedicated to observing the variable demographics under its natural habitat. While experimental research includes a scientific quantitative approach to test hypotheses and theories using control variables.

One example can be, a software company wants to develop a new shopping application. For that, they will observe the regular shopping experiences of the customers and what are current options they are preferring. Second example can be a researcher who wants to study social media experiences for different people belonging to different age groups.

Two things that will differentiate the two prime research methodologies can be:

  • Descriptive research deals with observation and no external intervention while experimental research totally depends on the intervention. This intervention is caused by manipulation of the independent variable. 
  • The use of descriptive research is done when you want to observe a certain group or an individual while experimental research is used when you have a theory and you want to test it out by experimenting on the variables. 

For instance, a new teaching strategy for math is tested for its effects. A random selection of students is done to undergo the special training for the subject. At the end of the training, results of the math tests are compared with the results before the training program. This will let the management know how effective the training is. 

  • It has dependent and independent variables that give the cause-effect relationship between the variables. 
  • It has pre-test and post-test study to compare the results of the experiment before the treatment and after the treatment. 
  • Random sampling helps both the treatment group and control groups to have equal quality of participants. 

As descriptive research is an observational and experimental research is, well, experiment based, both have their own importance depending on the research problem. Use descriptive research when you just have to observe a group in its environment and develop an understanding on the subject. Use experimental research when you have to test a hypothesis or establish a cause-effect relation between two or more variables. 

Experimental research includes independent and dependent variables, it compares the pretest and post-tests while including randomization of samples and control variables. While non-experimental research doesn’t have randomization of the samples and it doesn’t manipulate the independent variables even if it is about establishing causal relationships between the variables. 

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Non-experimental design

Non-experimental design SHARE THE ARTICLE ON Share on facebook Share on twitter Share on linkedin Table of Contents What is non-experimental design? While working with

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