The purpose of exploratory research as a methodological approach is to investigate research questions that have not been studied in depth previously. Exploratory research design is used when the issue being studied is either new or the data collection process has proven to be challenging. It can be used when the researcher has a specific question or a general idea that they want to study but there is no paradigm or pre-existing knowledge with which to approach it. Exploratory study is conducted to have a better understanding of the existing research problem. However, it will not provide conclusive results.
Although generally qualitative and primary in nature, exploratory research can also be quantitative if a study with a large sample is undertaken. Exploratory research is also known as interpretive research or a grounded theory approach due to its flexible and open-ended nature.
Data collection in exploratory research is usually divided into primary and secondary research methods. Exploratory research examples for primary sources include interviews, focus groups and surveys. Secondary data sources like case studies, literature reviews, blog posts, social media and online polls are also used. Exploratory research can serve as a great guide for future research, however, it suffers from the various challenges common to qualitative research.
List of recommended resources #
For a broad overview #
This article by Richard Hummelbrunner for the IDS Bulletin proposes a conceptual framework which permits us to explore and reflect on the connections between the three systems concepts of interrelationships, perspectives and boundaries with learning and values.
For in depth understanding #
This guide developed by W. K. Kellogg Foundation outlines a systems-oriented framework for initiative and cluster evaluation. It includes an in depth discussion of exploratory evaluation design for initiative evaluation.
Case study #
The paper attempts an exploratory overview and tries to make the structures of the API market more transparent, trying to determine how difficult it is for small manufacturers in developing countries to navigate the global API market and ensure that they get a quality product at a fair price.
This discussion paper produced by the Health, Nutrition, and Population Global Practice of the World Bank examines Armenian and Romanian response to the COVID-19 pandemic. focusing on the adjustments made in purchasing arrangements. The research adopts mixed methods and a deductive approach. The data was obtained from a scoping literature review, key informant interviews, and an exploratory analysis of quantitative health system indicators.
The brief, compiled by Tegan George, provides a general overview of exploratory research, its basic definition, types, methods and examples.
The blog post gives a broad overview of exploratory research along with its types, methodologies and characteristics. It also details its importance as well as compares its advantages and disadvantages.