Descriptive research studies are designed to get information about the current status phenomena. Descriptive studies may be focussed to investigate ‘what exists’ with respect to variables or conditions in a present situation.
In certain situation/areas where sufficient research has not been done and which require much spade work to be done, or institutions where factual information is needed for policy making or/and decision making, it is not necessary to have any hypothesis. Where spade work is needed, the type of researches is called ‘exploratory. There exists a strong feeling in some sections regarding the naming of the method as ‘descriptive’.
As they feel that all researches need be descriptive, it should not be associated with a particular method or approach. In lieu, it is suggested that such studies should be put under ‘explanatory studies.
‘Inspite of this controversy, it is felt that as most of the social-sciences cannot be explained in terms of casual relationships thanks to the assumption of ‘multiple causation’ and the danger of post-hoc fallacy, the maximum that we can do is to describe the social phenomena. Hence, there is the justification for the name ‘Descriptive Method of Research’.
Descriptive studies may be classified in many ways. The prominent types of studies that fall under this category are: (1) Case studies, (2) Surveys, (3) Development studies, (4) Follow-up studies, (5) Documentary analysis, (6) Trend analysis, and (7) Correlational studies.
Historical research is an attempt to establish fact and arrive at conclusions about past events. By doing historical researches one tries to gain a clearer perspective of the present. Besides, every man has a sense of history and he becomes interested in the understanding and knowledge of the past.
The historical researcher suffers from much greater handicaps than researchers in any other field. He lacks control over both treatments and measurement. He has relatively little control over sampling, and has no opportunity for replication.
Historical data is a closed class of data located along a fixed temporal locus, while in Science the nature of data is that of the open class and the experimenter, at his sweet will, may sample the new material and replicate his studies.
The historical researcher has no choice of sampling his data, and he is supposed to include all of data that comes his way. Based on the remnants and ashes and traces of the past, the researcher builds up a living being with flesh, bones and skin.
He builds and projects his imagination into the past from the window of the present. History has little chance of getting repeated as conditions similar to that of past will never recur. At the best one can get some moral from his historical past.
The job of a historical researcher is far more complicated than that a scientist, as in his case the data are never complete and he has to gather every bit of information from several sources in order to arrive at consistent conclusions.
The difficulty of deriving truth from historical evidence is quite appreciable. The major difficulty lies in the fact that the data comparative by the independent researcher has to establish unity in the midst of diversity, which clearly poses difficulty in matters of objectivity of interpretation.
The data of occurrence of a certain historical event is another problem. It may be difficult to determine, it partly because of changes brought about in the system of calendar and partly due to incomplete information.