Exploratory research

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Exploratory research is a type of research conducted because a problem has not been clearly defined. Exploratory research helps determine the best research design, data collection method and selection of subjects. Given its fundamental nature, exploratory research often concludes that a perceived problem does not actually exist.

Exploratory research often relies on secondary research such as reviewing available literature and/or data, or qualitative approaches such as informal discussions with consumers, employees, management or competitors, and more formal approaches through in-depth interviews, focus groups, projective methods, case studies or pilot studies. The Internet allows for research methods that are more interactive in nature: E.g., RSS feeds efficiently supply researchers with up-to-date information; major search engine search results may be sent by email to researchers by services such as Google Alerts; comprehensive search results are tracked over lengthy periods of time by services such as Google Trends; and Web sites may be created to attract worldwide feedback on any subject.

The results of exploratory research are not usually useful for decision-making by themselves, but they can provide significant insight into a given situation. Although the results of qualitative research can give some indication as to the "why", "how" and "when" something occurs, it cannot tell us "how often" or "how many."

Exploratory research is not typically generalizable to the population at large.

Social Science

In many social science circles, exploratory research "seeks to find out how people get along in the setting under question, what meanings they give to their actions, and what issues concern them. The goal is to learn 'what is going on here?' and to investigate social phenomena without explicit expectations." (Russell K. Schutt, Investigating the Social World, 5th ed.. This methodology can is also at times referred to as a 'grounded theory' approach to 'qualitative research' or 'interpretive research', and is an attempt to 'unearth' a theory from the data itself rather than from a pre-disposed hypothesis.

There are three types of objective in a marketing research project.

Exploratory Research 'The objective of exploratory research is to gather preliminary information that will help define problems and suggest hypotheses.'(Kotler et al. 2006, p. 122)

Descriptive Research 'The objective of descriptive research is to describe things, such as the market potential for a product or the demographics and attitudes of consumers who buy the product.' (Kotler et al. 2006, p. 122)

Causal Research 'The objective of causal Research is to test hypotheses about cause-and-effect relationships.(Kotler et al. 2006, p. 122)


Kotler, P, Adam, S, Brown, L & Armstrong, G 2006, Principles of Marketing , 3rd edn, Prentice Hall, Frenchs Forest, NSW Russell K. Schutt, Investigating the Social World, 5th ed, Pine Forge Press