“If I use observation, surveys, and market evidence to test developed hypothesizes, then I may discover important concepts, but I’m not sure how to do it, and I may lead myself off track.”
Keith Goffin, author of ‘Identifying Hidden Needs’ indicates “that a survey researcher asks people questions in a written questionnaire … or during an interview, then records answers. The researcher manipulates no situation or condition; people simply answer questions.” The trick is to gather information without influencing it.
The descriptive research method is a common practice for performance and process improvement within the world of projects. The desire is to describe systematically the facts and characteristics of a given team, organization, or set of projects, factually and accurately.
Some examples of this method include:
- An opinion survey to assess the perceived value of an IT line of service.
- A team survey to review the effectiveness of a project workflow.
- A study and definition of all job roles within a business unit.
- A report of project completion status ‘On Time’ vs. ‘Late.’
Descriptive research is used in the literal sense of describing situations or events. It is the accumulation of a data base that is solely descriptive- it does not necessarily seek or explain relationships, test hypotheses, make predictions, or get at meanings and impli¬cations, although research aimed at these more powerful purposes may incorporate descriptive methods. In this way, historic records of completed projects, and related values of state variables support descriptive research.
Research authorities, however, are not in agreement on what constitutes "descriptive research" and often broaden the term to include all forms of research except historical and experimental. In this broader context, the term survey studies are often used to cover the examples listed above.
Typical purpose of these ‘Survey Studies’ include:
- To collect detailed information that describes existing phenomena.
- To identify problems or justify current conditions and practices.
- To make comparisons and evaluations.
- To determine what others are doing with similar problems or situations and benefit from their experience in making plans and decisions.
The steps for conducting Descriptive Research are:
- Define the objectives in clear, specific terms. What facts and characteristics are to be uncovered? .
- Design the approach. How will the data be collected? How will the subjects be selected to insure they represent the population to be described? What instruments or observa¬tion techniques are available or will need to be developed? Will the data collection methods need to be field-tested and will data gatherers need to be trained? .
- Collect the data. .
- Report the results.