What Is a Descriptive Interpretation?

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  • Written By: Helen Akers
  • Edited By: Jessica Seminara
  • Last Modified Date: 15 September 2019
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The term "descriptive interpretation" has multiple meanings. Most commonly, it is used to describe an extended narrative that evaluates and summarizes either a literary work or the statistical results of a scientific study. The narrative may include several subheadings that break up the analysis of the work or study. Opinions are usually excluded from the narrative, as the facts and details that helped shape the work or study are elaborated on. In the business world, descriptive interpretations are commonly used to explain financial data in annual reports.

When a descriptive interpretation is written about a literary work, it presents a brief historical background on the author and a summary of the work. The story line may be summarized, and the narrative may highlight the critical points that add to the plot's development. A descriptive narrative will also explore the author's use of theme, voice and style that contribute to his uniqueness as an artist. Portions of the interpretation may be devoted to historical facts and explanations about what may have influenced the author and the creative development of the work.


Another field where a descriptive interpretation is commonly used is in scientific research. Since the meaning behind statistical data can be difficult to convey in purely numerical form, narrative explanations can better reflect how the data should be interpreted. For example, the description may include an explanation of the purpose of the study, how the data was collected, and the significance of the numerical results. It will also provide information about factors that might have contributed to the results, such as increases or decreases in variables that were not considered in the study.

While the writer of a descriptive interpretation will rarely offer his personal opinion on the study or literary work, he may offer some insight into how he perceives it. Included in the narrative is an analysis of how to decipher various aspects of the creative piece or scientific data. As the facts are presented, interpretations that the writer of the narrative took from the work or data are revealed. With an interpretation of a literary piece, references are usually used that support the opinions presented in the narrative.

Companies will usually provide a descriptive interpretation of financial statements in their annual reports, using a combination of internal and external references. These summaries help give investors additional information about the business practices and financial positions of organizations. For instance, the management summary and interpretation section of annual reports reveals information about the educated opinions of executives. It can explain the qualitative factors behind the numbers, the firm's strengths and challenges.


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