Exploratory research is a technique that investigates research questions that have not been previously studied extensively. Therefore, it is often qualitative and uses primary research methodology. This blog post will provide more insight into exploratory research.
Definition: exploratory research
Exploratory research is a study methodology that explores an issue that has not been extensively studied in the past or a new topic or subject.3 It explores specific elements of an existing phenomenon and gets more insight into it.
The usage of exploratory research
This method is often applied when the study issue is novel or when the data collection process for the study issue is challenging.2 You can also use this method if you have a general notion about a subject or a specific question that you would like to explore, but there is no existing knowledge with which to explore it.
Exploratory research questions
Academic studies usually begin with research questions. These questions are usually constructed to assist you to understand more about a particular subject. Therefore, they help you put together notions to master the footing of your investigation without adding any predetermined philosophies or assumptions.4
Exploratory research data collection
Data collection in this form of research is challenging because it involves working with a previously unexplored subject.5 However, exploratory research allows you to narrow down your subject of interest and come up with a distinct premise and problem statement.3
You can use primary and secondary research questions to gather data. Primary research collects data directly from primary sources. Some examples of these sources are:
- Focus groups
On the other hand, secondary research collects data from existing materials. Examples of secondary research data collection techniques are:
- Case studies
- Literature review
- Online polls
The five steps of exploratory research with examples
The way you conduct this research usually depends on your chosen data collection method.4 However, this research features five standard steps.
The first step is narrowing down the problem and determining if using an exploratory study is an ideal course of action.4
The next step is establishing a solution to the challenge you are investigating. This involves articulating a hypothetical statement that will guide your study.3
This is where you conceptualize your data collection and analysis techniques and use them to develop a research design.4
This is where you collect and analyze your data from the third step. Next, you can decide if your pilot results support your hypothesis. This research technique allows you to change your hypothesis depending on your findings.5
At this stage, you can determine if you would like to pursue the topic further. If you choose to do so, you will need to switch to another research design, like quantitative research with a larger sample size.1 Note that exploratory research does not usually give conclusive or generalizable results.2
Exploratory vs. explanatory research
Exploratory research explores research questions that have not been studied extensively in the past. The preliminary outcomes form the foundation for future explorations of the subject. In contrast, explanatory research questions focus on the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’.
Advantages vs. disadvantages
Here are the pros and cons of exploratory research:5
- It helps narrow down a study issue that has not been previously explored.
- It serves as the foundation for future studies.
- It is flexible, open-ended, and cheap.
- It lacks conclusive results and can be biased.
- It is not externally valid.
- It can be labor-intensive
This form of research seeks to explore a topic that has not been previously studied in-depth. Its results form the foundation for further studies.
It is easy to conduct and helps give more insight into an unexplored issue. It guides further studies on the subject.
Exploratory research is a study methodology that explores an issue that has not been extensively studied in the past or a new topic or subject.
It features five steps: problem identification, hypothesizing, research design, data collection and analysis, and further research.
1 Question Pro. “Exploratory Research: Types & Characteristics.” Accessed February 6, 2023. https://www.questionpro.com/blog/exploratory-research/.
2 Form Plus. “Exploratory Research: What are its Method & Examples?” January 11, 2023. https://www.formpl.us/blog/exploratory-research.
3 Indeed. “Exploratory Research: What It Is and How To Conduct a Stud.” December 30, 2023. https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/career-development/exploratory-study.
4 Anpar Research Ltd. “Exploratory Research: Definition & How To Conduct This Research.” May 23, 2022. https://www.anparresearchltd.com/post/exploratory-research.
5 Survey Monkey. “Exploratory research: what is it? (And 4 ways to implement it into your research!).” Accessed February 6, 2023. https://www.surveymonkey.com/mp/exploratory-research/.