What is Exploratory Research?


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What is Exploratory Research?

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Exploratory research is a research method used to investigate research problems that aren’t clearly defined or understood. It is important for researchers to clearly understand their research problem before trying to answer it so that they can determine whether or not the topic is worth investigating. This helps ensure that time and resources aren’t spent trying to study research problems that aren’t relevant, valid, or feasible to research.

Exploratory research is not used to obtain data to answer a research question, but instead to provide a deeper context to a research question. It can therefore be thought of as the groundwork for other types of research.

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Methods of Exploratory Research

When conducting exploratory research, there are two main methods of research that can be employed: primary research methods and secondary research methods.

  • Primary Research Methods

Primary research methods involve collecting data directly from subjects. These subjects could be individuals or a group of people. These are a few different types of primary research methods used in exploratory research:

  • Observations: Observational research involves collecting data by simply observing subjects without doing anything to influence their behaviour. 
  • Interviews: One-on-one interviews conducted between an interviewer and a subject can provide the researcher with in-depth qualitative information on the research problem. 
  • Focus Groups: A focus group is a small group of carefully selected participants that have certain common characteristics. Their reactions, responses, and conversations are studied to get an in-depth understanding of a research problem. 
  • Surveys: Surveys involve collecting information using questionnaires with a set of questions regarding the topic being studied. 
  • Secondary Research Methods

Secondary Research involves collecting information using already existing data. These are a few different types of secondary research methods used in exploratory research:

  • Case Studies: A case study is a detailed examination of a particular case within a real-world context. This source of secondary data allows researchers to analyse existing cases regarding the research problem they are studying. 
  • Literature: Literature research involves gathering data from sources such as newspapers, magazines, online sources, books from libraries, government documents, articles, annual reports, and public records and statistics. 
  • Online Sources: The internet has a vast amount of information available on almost any topic. It is one of the fastest ways to gather information in a cost-effective way. It can, however, contain an abundance of unreliable information as well. Hence, when using this method of data collection, researchers must verify the authenticity and reliability of the sources they are referring to. 

Steps to Conduct Exploratory Research

As exploratory research generally tends to be a flexible and unstructured form of research, there aren’t any clearly defined steps that must be carried out in order to conduct it. The following steps simply outline the general approach that is taken while conducting exploratory research:

  1. Outline the Problem: The first step is to clearly identify the research problem. In this step, you must study the relevant secondary data available on your research problem. You can even collect primary data by conducting surveys or interviews to gain an understanding of the relevance and validity of the topic. 
  2. Create a Hypothesis: Use the research you’ve done so far to form a hypothesis. 
  3. Conduct Further Research: Exploratory research provides the groundwork for further research. In this step, you must determine if there is any truth to the research problem being studied. In this step, you will also want to determine how feasible it is to investigate your research problem and whether the potential outcome of the study is worth the resources and time that will need to be invested into it.
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Advantages of Exploratory Research

The following are a few advantages of exploratory research:

  1. Can Help make Pivotal Decisions: Exploratory research can help researchers determine whether or not a research problem is worth studying further.
  2. Saves Time, Money, and Resources: If a topic is found to be unnecessary to study, or impractical to study, the researcher will have saved a lot of their time, money, and resources by not continuing their research on it. 
  3. Provides a Deeper Context: Exploratory research provides a deeper context and understanding of a research problem, enabling further research to be conducted in a well-informed way. 
  4. Inexpensive: Exploratory research is generally a low-cost method of research, especially when predominantly secondary data is utilized. 

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FAQs on Exploratory Research

 Exploratory research provides a groundwork to further research by providing researchers with a deeper understanding of a research problem. It is important to note that exploratory research is not used to obtain information to answer the research problem, instead is only used to get a deeper understanding of it. 

The methods of exploratory research can be categorized into primary and secondary research methods. Primary research includes gathering data through observations, interviews, focus groups, and surveys. Secondary research includes gathering data through case studies, existing literature, and online sources.

Exploratory research is used in situations where the research question is not clearly defined or understood.

 The following are a few advantages of using exploratory research:

  • Saves time, money, and resources
  • Provides a deeper context and understanding of a research problem
  • Relatively inexpensive when compared to other forms of research
  • Helps researchers decide whether a research problem is worth studying or not

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