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What is the difference between descriptive research and correlational research?

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Quick Answer

Descriptive research involves looking at detailed data and observing subjects while correlational research studies the relationship between variables and the levels of interaction between the variables. Unlike descriptive research, correlational research cannot find the cause of an outcome.

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The descriptive research and correlational research modalities can be seen in education research. Descriptive research for educational studies looks at the questions of why, how and what is happening. An example of a descriptive research study would be, "How does the teacher's instruction vary in districts who have more staff development hours?" or "Why does a student's interests indicate how successful he or she will be later in life?"

Correlational research for educational studies looks at the statistics between at least two variables. An example of a correlational research study would be measuring the average student achievement based on the average teacher's qualification level in different schools within a district.

The other form of research used in sociology is known as experimental research and involves setting up experiments where a variable is manipulated by those running the study. All three forms of research will end up written in a scientific method format with an abstract, introduction, methods and procedures, results, discussion, conclusions and practical applications sections.

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