descriptive quantitative research

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Getting Started

As a social researcher, you may be interested in describing data – hence the word “descriptive.” One way to describe data is to describe the relationship between two or more variables, referred to as correlation research. The purpose of this design is to show a relationship. In other words, if we see one variable increase, we are likely to see another variable increase.

For example, a researcher may be interested in understanding if there is a relationship between low self-esteem and depression. Upon completion of the study, the researcher could determine that as low self-esteem increases, so does depression. Thus the researcher could conclude that there is a positive correlation between the two variables.

Upon successful completion of this assignment, you will be able to:

  • Access the library for empirical studies.
  • Demonstrate in writing the elements of each research methodology.


  • Textbook: Writing Empirical Research Reports
  • File: Descriptive Research Example.pdf
  • File: Research Methods Cheat Sheet.pdf
  • Website: IWU Library Services
  • Website: Citation Machine

Background InformationExample of how researcher cannot determine causation

Correlation and Causation

Although the researcher may be able to determine a relationship, the researcher cannot determine causation. In the study of the relationship between low self-esteem and depression, the researcher can only state that there is/is not a relationship between the two variables. The researcher cannot state that low self-esteem caused the depression. Other factors, such as distressing events or even biological factors, may alter a person’s mood or level of self-esteem.


Descriptive correlation research serves to help the researcher understand the relationship between two or more variables. The researcher uses a predictor variable and a criterion variable.

In the correlation study that aims to identify the relationship between low self-esteem and depression, the predictor variable, also referred to as the independent variable, is low self-esteem, whereas depression is the criterion variable, also referred to as the dependent variable.


Sampling methods can be probability and non-probability. If the participants in the study all must have a diagnosis of depression, a researcher will use a criterion sampling method.

However, in many situations, a probability sampling method, such as a systematic random sample, could be used. Again, consider the study of low self-esteem and depression. A researcher may be interested in identifying the correlation of low self-esteem and depression among college students. Here the researcher could obtain a list of all the students on campus, randomly select every 10th person, and request their participation in the study.

Data Collection:

With correlation data, the researcher collects the data by implementing surveys. Beck’s Depression Inventory is a valid instrument that assesses depression, and Rosenberg’s Self-Esteem Scale can be used to assess the person’s level of self-esteem.

Data Analysis:

To analyze the data, the researcher will use a statistic, since this is quantitative data. In the case of low self-esteem and depression, the level of measurement of the dependent variable (depression) can be scored in units, with higher scores indicating higher levels of depression. Therefore, the level of measurement of the dependent variable is scaled, and, thus, a Pearson’s r coefficient would be used.

At times, researchers may want to use several predictor variables. For example, the researcher may want to identify the relationship among low self-esteem, age, education level, and depression. In this case, there are three predictor variables: low self-esteem, age, and education level; therefore, a multiple regression analysis would be used to analyze the data.


  1. Review the rubric to make sure you understand the criteria for earning your grade.
  2. Review the following resources:
    1. Chapter 4 in your textbook Practice-Based Research in Social Work
    2. File: Descriptive Research Example.pdf
    3. File: Research Methods Cheat Sheet.pdf
    4. Website: Citation Machine
  3. Visit IWU Library Services:
    1. Go to the IWU library databases and locate a peer-reviewed correlation research study in social work.
  4. Identify in writing the elements of the qualitative research study, which include:
    1. The problem of the study
    2. The sampling methods used
    3. The data collection methods used
    4. The data analysis used
    5. A summary of the study results
  5. Be sure to follow APA formatting, to include a cover page and a reference page.
  6. Your assignment should be a minimum of one page, not including the cover page and reference page.

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