Assignment: Develop Descriptive, Associative, and Causal Research Questions

 Assignment: Develop Descriptive, Associative, and Causal Research Questions

Assignment: Develop Descriptive, Associative, and Causal Research Questions 


Research plays an integral role in the healthcare setting by providing sound evidence for best practices and innovative solutions to complex healthcare dilemmas. There are three types of research methods that can be adopted namely; qualitative research, quantitative research, and mixed research method that integrates both qualitative and quantitative attributes (Noyes et al., 2019). The type of research method guides the formulation of research questions. Research questions have direct implications on the quality and strength of research outcomes. Formulation of research questions is one of the essential initial stages of a research process in exploring existing uncertainties and dilemmas. Research questions systematically identify the subject of interest and guide the methodology to be adopted.

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Formulation and framing of good research questions can be challenging and quite stressful. A good and meticulously framed research question should have certain features which include feasible, interesting, novel, ethical, relevant, manageable, appropriate, with potential value,  publishable, and systematic (Ratan et al., 2019). Well-crafted research questions lead to high-quality research whose outcomes can be of great impact on the larger population through evidence-based guided healthcare policymaking and legislative processes.  There are three types of research questions that can be used in scientific research and they include descriptive, associative, and causal research questions (Kamper et al., 2020). This paper intends to evaluate the three types of research questions frequently used by scientific researchers. It will provide an example of each category on matters relating to the COVID-19 pandemic. The paper will also elicit the differences between qualitative and quantitative research approaches.

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Qualitative and Quantitative Research Approaches

Qualitative and quantitative research methods adopt different approaches to scientific studies. Qualitative research is a type of research that seeks a descriptive and narrative understanding of phenomena through non-numerical data collection methods such as focused group discussions (Busetto et al., 2020).  Quantitative research entails the collection and analysis of numerical data to describe variables or establish the presence of associations, interactions, or causal relationships between variables (Bayot et al., 2022). Quantitative research methods can be observational or experimental. Experimental research methods involve the manipulation of variables to obtain an outcome of interest. Qualitative research, on the other hand, seeks insight and the why of phenomena to generate hypotheses. Case reports are examples of observational quantitative research whereas randomized control trials are examples of interventional research methods.

A mixed research method is an increasingly emerging approach.  It involves the integration of both qualitative and quantitative research approaches in data collection and analysis. Mixed research methods draw on the strengths of both qualitative and quantitative research methods to explore complex issues and produce high-quality sound evidence (Kajamaa et al., 2020). This method allows for a comparison of findings from both methods and thus is more reliable. A wider range of audience is reached by the findings. This method is, however, challenging especially when it comes to integrating the findings whose analysis is different for the quantitative and qualitative aspects.

Descriptive Research Questions

Descriptive research questions are generally used to describe the variable under investigation. These questions attempt to determine the existence of a phenomenon and describe this phenomenon by describing the unique attributes or features of the variables under consideration or the behavior of a population concerning the variables to be measured (Barroga et al., 2022). The goal is to offer an overview of the situation under study. Descriptive research questions collect and analyze data to use it to provide a quantitative summary of certain distinct features such as questions addressing prevalence, the clinical course of disorders, associations between clinical manifestations, and the accuracy of diagnostic procedures among others (Kamper et al., 2020). Qualitative research designs also adopt these types of questions. The sole goal of descriptive research questions is the description of variables at a given point in time or on numerous encounters with no requirement of determining causal relationships or other hypotheses (Aggarwal et al., 2019). The research process will require no manipulations of the variables by the researcher. The outcomes are description, classification, and deconstruction of the composition of mutually exclusive variables constituting a phenomenon.

What is the Adherence Level to the Preventive Measures and Strategies Implemented to Mitigate the Spread of the COVID-19 Pandemic?

This is one example of a descriptive research question. This research question will be adopted in a quantitative research study. The question will address issues such as the specific preventive measure that were adopted by the organization of interest. Collection and analysis of numerical data will also give exact quantitative figures to depict the adherence level. The outcomes will include whether the measures are sufficient or if there is a need to devise additional strategies. Other issues that may arise will include the challenges that impede the implementation of the stated measures. No causal relationships will be established between the variables in the study.

Associative/Correlational Research Questions

Associative/correlational research questions are used when the researcher is interested in determining any relationships between the variables under study.  Associative research questions establish any interactions between the dependent and independent variables to elucidate any trends (Barroga et al., 2022). The interest is in the associations and interdependency of the variables and not the cause-and-effect relationships. The researcher does not manipulate the variables under study thus the research study is not interventional. The resultant association between the variables may either be positive or negative. This will dictate the measures to be undertaken from the interpretation of the research findings.

What are the Effects of COVID-19 on the Uptake of HIV Prevention and Treatment Services

This is an associative/correlational research question. It seeks to determine the association between the COVID-19 pandemic and the uptake of HIV prevention and treatment services. COVID-19 is the independent variable whereas uptake of HIV prevention and treatment services is the dependent variable. To conduct this study, the research will not manipulate the variables or the outcomes. With the implementation of COVID-19-related preventive measures and strategies to mitigate its spread, it is expected that continuity and access to various healthcare services were disrupted. The statistical analysis of the collected data will reveal whether the uptake of various HIV services significantly increased or decreased. The trends that will be discovered will appropriately guide modifications of HIV prevention and treatment services in the context of a highly contagious pandemic. The study design that will be adopted for this research question is a quantitative research approach.

Causal/Experimental Research Questions

Causal/experimental questions determine whether one variable causes the effects on the outcomes of another variable. The effects are seen on a dependent variable resulting from the manipulation of the independent variable (Barroga et al., 2022). These types of questions are used in quantitative experimental research studies. Exposure of interest is made on the independent variable at a set time and the target outcome is expected after a given time and thus determines the cause-and-effect relationships (Goetghebeur et al., 2020). Alternatively, an outcome can be studied retrospectively to determine whether it is a result of past exposure to a given factor. This type of study requires two study subject groups. One of the groups acts as the intervention group whereas the other is a control group that does not receive the exposure of interest. Randomization of study participants is key to avoiding any biases.

Experimental research questions are applied in various aspects of clinical practice. These include identifying the risk factors that predispose individuals to a medical condition, determining the effectiveness of a new drug or therapeutic intervention during clinical trials, and identifying potential adverse effects of specific treatments (Kamper et al., 2020). The key focus is whether an intervention or exposure results in a particular outcome. The PICOT framework is utilized when formulating causal research questions. This framework entails the population of interest, the interventions to be carried out by the researcher, the comparison or control group, the expected outcome of interest, and the timeframe that is required by the research study to obtain the outcome of interest (De et al., 2019). The population is obtained from the random allocation of the study groups and it has to meet the inclusion and exclusion criteria to enhance the feasibility, generalizability, and validity of the study.

Do COVID-19 Vaccinations Affect the Risk of Venous Thromboembolism?

This is a good example of a causal research question. This research question seeks to establish whether COVID-19 vaccination which is the independent variable, presents any risk for the occurrence of venous thromboembolism, which is the dependent variable. This will require a qualitative randomized control trial study to determine the outcomes. The population of interest will be individuals who receive the vaccine whereas the control group will not be vaccinated. The intervention group will be followed up for a given period and the occurrence of any thromboembolic events will be appropriately noted. Data collected will be analyzed and the statistical significance will determine the presence of a cause-and-effect relationship. The findings have to be generalizable to the population at large to prevent unnecessary interventions that pose serious risks to the study population.


Scientific research is integral in the progressive advancement of best clinical practices and healthcare policies. There are two types of scientific research namely; qualitative and quantitative research methods. The two approaches can be integrated into one study to give rise to a mixed research method which is potentially superior from drawing from the strengths of both. The type of research method guides the formulation of research questions. The type of research questions that are normally used by researchers is descriptive research questions, associative research questions, and causal research questions. The choice of research questions depends on the area of focus of the study and the expected outcomes of interest. This depends on whether the objective is a description of variables, associations or relationships between variables, or a causal relationship between variables. Framing good research questions is integral in obtaining high-quality findings that are feasible and beneficial to the population at large.


Aggarwal, R., & Ranganathan, P. (2019). Study designs: Part 2 – descriptive studies. Perspectives in Clinical Research, 10(1), 34.

Barroga, E., & Matanguihan, G. J. (2022). A practical guide to writing quantitative and qualitative research questions and hypotheses in scholarly articles. Journal of Korean Medical Science, 37(16).

Bayot, M. L., Brannan, G. D., Brannan, J. M., & Tenny, S. (2022). Human Subjects Research Design. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing.

Busetto, L., Wick, W., & Gumbinger, C. (2020). How to use and assess qualitative research methods. Neurological Research and Practice, 2(1).

De, D., & Singh, S. (2019). Basic understanding of study types and formulating research questions for a clinical trial. Indian Dermatology Online Journal, 10(3), 351.

Goetghebeur, E., le Cessie, S., De Stavola, B., Moodie, E. E., Waernbaum, I., & “on behalf of” the topic group Causal Inference (TG7) of the STRATOS initiative (2020). Formulating causal questions and principled statistical answers. Statistics in medicine, 39(30), 4922–4948.

Kajamaa, A., Mattick, K., & Croix, A. (2020). How to … do mixed‐methods research. The Clinical Teacher, 17(3), 267–271.

Kamper S. J. (2020). Types of Research Questions: Descriptive, Predictive, or Causal. The Journal of orthopedic and sports physical therapy, 50(8), 468–469.

Noyes, J., Booth, A., Moore, G., Flemming, K., Tunçalp, Ö., & Shakibazadeh, E. (2019). Synthesizing quantitative and qualitative evidence to inform guidelines on complex interventions: Clarifying the purposes, and designs and outlining some methods. BMJ Global Health, 4(Suppl 1).

 Ratan, S. K., Anand, T., & Ratan, J. (2019). Formulation of research question – stepwise approach. Journal of Indian Association of Pediatric Surgeons, 24(1), 15.

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This week is a broad overview of the different types of research questions that scientists can use. For this assignment, prepare a paper to briefly assess the three different types of research questions that scientists typically ask. Then, provide a research question about a topic of interest that fits within each of these three categories (one descriptive, one associative/correlational, and one causal/experimental question).

For example, if you want to examine when and where people smoke during the workday at your office, this would be a more descriptive question. You might also want to examine whether or not the frequency of smoke breaks throughout the day impacts employees’ productivity – or their ability to get the job done; this is more of an associative research question. Finally, you might want to determine if there is a causal relationship between smoking and the incidence of lung cancer. Here, you would need to perform carefully controlled experimental research with white mice in a laboratory setting to determine whether or not there is a higher rate of lung cancer among mice exposed to cigarette smoke than those who are not. In case you are curious, if you check the warning labels on cigarette boxes, they used to warn that there is an association between smoking and lung cancer. However, with the overwhelming abundance of conclusive scientific evidence based on carefully controlled scientific data, the warning labels now state that smoking causes cancer. This is a good reason to quit smoking immediately if you haven’t done so already!

In your three examples of research questions, be sure to describe the types of conclusions that can be drawn when asking these questions, discuss the differences between qualitative and quantitative approaches to research, and where each research question fits within this dichotomy.

Length: 4-6 pages, not including title and reference pages

References: Include a minimum of 3 scholarly resources.
The completed assignment should address all of the assignment requirements, exhibit evidence of concept knowledge, and demonstrate thoughtful consideration of the content presented in the course. The writing should integrate scholarly resources, reflect academic expectations and current APA standards, and adhere to Northcentral University’s Academic Integrity Policy.

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