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Exploring the Pros and Cons of Exploratory Research


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Exploratory research is conducted to improve the understanding of a problem or phenomenon which is not rigidly defined. In this blog, we will focus on the pros & cons of Exploratory Research

What are the Characteristics of Exploratory Research?

Exploratory research helps you to gain more understanding of a topic. It helps you to gather information about your analysis without any preconceived assumptions. 

  • The beginning phase of the study.
  • Trial and error approach.
  • Study of an undefined phenomenon.
  • Uses small samples.
  • Unstructured and flexible.
  • Tentative results.
  • Guide for future research.
  • Qualitative and unrestricted. 

With an understanding of the characteristics, let’s dig into the pros & cons of exploratory research.

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Pros of Exploratory Research

The following set of pros of exploratory research advocate for its use as: 

  • Exploratory research offers a great amount of researcher discretion. The lack of structure enables the researcher to direct the progression of the research processes and in that sense, it offers a greater degree of flexibility and freedom.
  • Another pro of exploratory research is the economical way in which the process can be conducted. Exploratory research uses a relatively smaller group of people for defining and understanding the research issue.
  • Exploratory research when done properly can lay a strong foundation for any study that is carried around the same issue in the future. Exploratory research that is properly carried out helps in determining research design, sampling methodology, and data collection. This also comes with a sense of responsibility for the researcher to try and inspect the issue in-depth and concentrate on authentic reporting of results.
  • Analyzing the feasibility and viability of the research issue is another pro of exploratory research. No organization wants to invest time, effort, and resources in an area that is incapable of making value addition to the overall functioning. By carrying out an early study, exploratory research gauges the future importance that the research topic holds and accordingly directs organizational attitude.
  • Exploratory research formulates a greater understanding of a previously unresearched topic and satisfies the researcher uncovers facts and brings new issues to light. In doing so, it helps refine the future research questions. It also helps decide the best approach to reach the objective.

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Cons of exploratory research

Exploratory research comes with its own set of cons that can act as roadblocks that impede a seamless data collection experience which lays the groundwork for future probes as well:

  • Exploratory research brings up tentative results and so is inconclusive. The focus of such research is to grasp and formulate a better understanding of the issue at hand. These research insights cannot be relied upon for effective decision-making.
  •  Another con of exploratory research is its qualitative data and subsequent analysis. It is difficult to derive accurate insights that can be summarized in an objective manner. The variability in qualitative data itself makes the evaluation of data collected, a difficult and cumbersome process.
  • The small sample used for exploratory research increases the risk of the sample responses being non-representative of the target audience. Smaller groups of people as samples, however useful for a quick study, can hinder a cohesive understanding which not only deteriorates the current quality of research but also adversely impacts the future research carried out along similar lines.
  • Data, when gathered through secondary resources, can supply obsolete information which may not generate any significant contribution to the understanding of an issue in the current scenario. Outdated information is neither actionable nor supportive in offering any sort of clarity under dynamic market conditions.

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In this article, we have discussed the pros and cons of exploratory research to make it easier for understanding. You can conduct exploratory research via the primary or secondary method of data collection. Weighing the pros and cons of exploratory research as mentioned above you can choose the best way to proceed with your research. 


Dynamic: Researchers decide the directional flow of the research based on changing circumstances

Pocket Friendly: The resource investment is minimal and so does not act as a financial plough

Foundational: Lays the groundwork for future researcher

Feasibility of future assessment: Exploratory research studies the scope of the issue and determines the need for a future investigation

Nature: Exploratory research sheds light upon previously undiscovered

Inconclusive: Exploratory research offers inconclusive results

Difficult to interpret: Exploratory research offers a qualitative approach to data collection which is highly subjective and complex.

Sampling problem: Exploratory research makes use of a small number of respondents which opens up the risk of sampling bias and the consequent reduction in reliability and validity.

Incorrect sourcing: The collection of secondary data from sources that provide outdated information deteriorate the research quality.

Exploratory research design is a mechanism that explores issues that have not been clearly defined by adopting a qualitative method of data collection.

Exploratory research comes with disadvantages that include offering inconclusive results, lack of standardized analysis, small sample population and outdated information that can adversely affect the authenticity of information. Lack of preventive measure to minimise the effect of such hindrances can result in a bad understanding of the topic under consideration.

Exploratory research is carried out with the purpose of formulating an initial understanding of issues that haven’t been clearly defined yet.

Yes, due to a lack of previous knowledge about the research problem, researchers establish a suitable hypothesis that fuel the initial investigation.

A retail study that focuses on the impact of individual product sales vs packaged hamper sales on overall demand can provide a layout about how the customer looks at the two concepts differently and the variation in buying behaviour observed therein.

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