Selecting and Ordering Descriptive Data
Descriptive questions can be classified roughly as developmental and cross-sectional. Developmental questions call for a description of the historical background of a condition or event and thus for a chronological ordering of data. Cross-sectional questions call for a description of phenomena at a given time or without regard to time, e.g., for a description of the organizational arrangements under which Congress operates and of the process by which it enacts laws.
Descriptive questions can also be classified (or, more strictly, ranged along a scale) according to the level of generality of the answers sought.
These categories will now be examined.
A person who enters a theater when the play is half over is likely to have difficulty understanding the rest unless someone can give him background information, orienting him to the plot, the characters, and their roles. Some bits of background will be much more important than others in providing an adequate orientation.
There is an obvious analogy to political life. The world can be considered a theater in which political dramas are played-- dramas that began in the more or less remote past and that will presumably extend into an indefinite and uncertain future. People cannot avoid entering one or more political theaters, and cannot avoid doing it long after the play has begun. The choice, if they have any, is between taking a place in the audience or striving to