The Difference between Exploratory and Conclusive Research

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A research design is a framework using which research is carried out. There are many different research designs, each serving a different purpose and achieving a different objective. Within this article, we will specifically explore two important categories of research design:

  • Exploratory Research
  • Conclusive Research

We will first delve into exploratory and conclusive research separately and then move on to comparing the two.

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Exploratory Research


Exploratory research is used to investigate a problem that is not clearly defined or understood. It is therefore conducted to gain a deeper understanding of a research problem and its context, rather than to gain an understanding on its solution or result. It is used by researchers to understand the phenomenon being studied so as to form a more precise research problem before it can be effectively investigated. 

Types of Exploratory Research

Although there are many different methods of exploratory research, it is generally classified into the following two categories:

  1. Primary Research Methods: This refers to the methods of research where data is collected directly from the subjects being investigated. The subject could be an individual or a group of people. Some common methods of primary research used in exploratory research are surveys, observations, interviews, and focus groups. 
  2. Secondary Research Methods: This refers to the methods of research where data is collected from existing resources on the subject being studied. Some common methods of secondary research used in exploratory research are online sources, research papers, literature, and case studies. 

Advantages of Exploratory Research

The following are a few advantages of exploratory research: 

  • Flexibility: The exploratory research design offers a lot of flexibility, allowing the researcher to adapt to change as the research progresses. 
  • Less Expensive: Exploratory research is generally low cost, especially when methods of secondary research are used to obtain data. 
  • Helps Identify the Relevance of a Research Problem: Exploratory research allows researchers to understand at an early stage, whether or not the research problem is worth investigating. It helps researchers avoid investing their time and resources into studying irrelevant or impractical research problems. 
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Conclusive Research

The conclusive research design is used to obtain information that can be used to reach conclusions or make decisions. The data collected in this research design is generally quantitative in nature and therefore takes distinct numerical values. For this reason, conclusive research relies on the use of highly structured techniques, such as surveys with closed-ended questions, in order to prove or disprove a hypothesis. 

 Types of Conclusive Research

There are two main types of conclusive research:

  1. Descriptive Research: Descriptive research is used to answer questions such as “what”, “when”, “where”, and “how”, rather than “why”. It is a type of research that describes a population, situation, or phenomenon. 
  2. Causal Research: Causal research is used to investigate the cause-and-effect relationship between variables

Advantages of Conclusive Research 

The following are a few advantages of conclusive research: 

  • Provides a Context on Subjects: Conclusive research provides a reliable and representative picture of the population.
  • Establishes Causality: Conclusive research is a useful tool when trying to establish causality between two variables. 

A Comparison: Exploratory Research vs Conclusive Research

Now that we have an understanding of both these methods of research, let’s examine some of their differences:

  1. The key difference between the two research methods is that exploratory research is used to gain a better understanding of a research problem while conclusive research is used to arrive at results or decisions. 
  2. Exploratory research is more unstructured and therefore offers more flexibility when compared to the conclusive design that is more structured and rigid. 
  3. Conclusive research, when compared to exploratory research, relies more heavily on the use of quantitative data. It, therefore, uses a lot of statistical tests and advanced analytical techniques, allowing it to have a large sample size. Exploratory research, on the other hand, relies more so on qualitative data. Some common qualitative approaches used in exploratory research are interviews, focus groups, and case studies.

FAQs on Exploratory Research and Conclusive Research

Exploratory research refers to the investigation of a research problem that is not clearly defined or understood.

Conclusive research, as the name suggests, is a type of research that is used to yield information that helps reach conclusions or make decisions.

Conclusive research can be categorized into the following two groups; descriptive research and causal research.

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