Correlational Research Design [Examples, Types, Advantages, Disadvantages, Characteristics]

Correlational Research Design

Correlational Research is a non-experimental research method. In this type of research, you measure two variables. Moreover, he assesses and understands the relationship between the two variables with statistical analysis. This research doesn’t concern the influence of extraneous variables. 

Correlation research examines the direction of a relationship between variables. However, the direction can be positive or negative. 

Correlational research is commonly used in psychology and medicine. Through this research, certain information is collected about a specific topic. Correlational research can also be used if you are unable to conduct an experiment.


To go further, it is important to know about what are variables. So, we can say that variable is a feature, factor, or element that can be varied or changed. 

Examples of variables

To understand the variable more, you can concern some of its examples.

Smoking: Some people are in habit of smoking, some don’t.

Weight: Some people have 100 pounds weight while some have 200 pounds.

Quality of life: Some people are satisfied with their life and some are not happy in their life.

How is the value of variables is measured?

The value is between -1 and +1. If the value is close to -1, it means the correlation is negative between the variables. If the value is close to +1, it means the correlation is positive. While, if you see the value near zero, it means there is no relationship between the variables.

When we use correlational research

Through correlational research, we can gather data quickly. It helps us to generalize the findings to real-life situations. However, there are certain situations where we use this research.

  1. To explore non-causal relationships between variable
  2. To investigate causal relationships between variables
  3. To test fresh measurement tools

How to collect data for correlational research

There are various methods to collect data. If we talk about the behavioral and social sciences, commonly data is collected through surveys, secondary data, and observations. But to ensure the validity and reliability of the results, you must carefully choose the method for collecting data. Now let’s talk about the methods in detail.

  • Surveys

In survey research, questionnaires can be used to measure the variables of interest. The survey can also be online, by phone, by mail, or in person.

  • Observation

We can also call it field research in which you go and gather data about a phenomenon or behavior in its natural environment. It can be conducted through recording, counting, categorizing, or describing the events and actions.

  • Secondary data

This is the third method in which you don’t collect fresh data. Rather, you use previous data that may be collected for other purposes like polls, previous studies, or official records.

Types of correlational research

There are three types of correlational research:

Positive correlational research

Positive correlation tells that the relationship between the variables is positive. In this relation, if one variable increases, we see the other variable also increase. For example, if a person works hard, the chances of success increase. 

Negative correlational research

The negative correlation indicates the negative relationship between the variables. In this relation, when one variable increases, the other will decrease. For instance, we consume the water in the glass and it decreases. The more we drink it the more it will decrease and finally finish.

Zero correlational research

Zero correlation tells that the two variables have no relationship. If a change occurs in one variable, it doesn’t influence the other variable. For example, there is no relationship between the height and intelligence of a person. If the height increases, it will not lead to an increase in intelligence.

Characteristics of correlational research

There are certain characteristics of correlational research that are as under:

  • Non-experimental

Correlational research is non-experimental. It means you don’t need to manipulate any of the variables through a scientific methodology. You just observe and measure the relationship between two variables without being influenced by any external conditioning.

  • Backward-looking

Correlational research also uses previous data and observes the actions and events of the past. You can use it to spot and measure historical patterns between the variables.

  • Dynamic 

In correlational research, the pattern between the variables is never stable, rather it constantly changes. The variables that had a positive relationship in the past, can have a negative relationship in the coming time because of various factors.

Advantages of correlational research

Following are the advantages of correlational research.

  1. With the help of this research, you can study the statistical relationship between the two variables.
  2. It is less expensive and less time-consuming. 
  3. You can see the variables in a natural setting.
  4. It is an alternative to experimental research. If you can’t do the experiment, you can do this research.
  5. You are inspired by various ideas that can help you in further research.
  6. You can gather large data in a short period.

Disadvantages of correlational research

There are some disadvantages of correlational research as well.

  1. This research is limited in its nature. It can only determine the relationship between two variables not more than two variables.
  2. It doesn’t prove the cause and effect between the variables. It means it doesn’t indicate which variable becomes the cause of the statistical pattern.
  3. You cannot have control over the variables. It only allows you to observe or spot the variables and their statistical patterns.
  4. The information you get from this research is limited. It only studies the relationship of variables but does not find the cause. 

Examples of correlational research

Some of the Examples of correlational research are as follow:

  1. Can smoking be associated with dangerous diseases?
  2. Are kids victims of bad weather if proper precautions are not practiced?

Correlational research is non-experimental research that investigates a relationship between two variables. The researcher measures these variables and understands their statistical relationship without any influence of extraneous variables. The researcher can’t control or manipulate these variables. A correlation talks about the direction or strength of the relationship between variables. These directions are:

Positive correlation: Same direction of variables.

  • As hard work increases, the chance of success also increases.
  • More food consumption, more increase in weight.

Negative correlation: Opposite direction of variables.

  • As honesty increases, corruption decreases.
  • The more you do exercise, you can lose weight.

Zero correlation: No relationship between the variables.

  • Obesity is not correlated with intelligence.
  • Caffeine has no relation with height.

You conduct correlational research to investigate that drug causes lung diseases. Of course, you cannot experiment by giving drugs to the research participants because it is harmful and unethical. So, you can investigate this correlation between two variables; drug and lung diseases. You will find whether persons consuming drugs suffer from lung diseases more than those who don’t use drugs.



In a nutshell, we can say that correlational research can be done when experimental research is not possible. It studies the relationship between two variables. It is dynamic and can change at any time. Correlational research helps you to gather data in a limited time. You can collect data through different methods to make your finding valid and reliable. There are some advantages and disadvantages of correlational research as well. Correlational research is very famous by researchers when they write research papers.

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