Researchers employ exploratory research when little is known about the topic and previous theories or ideas do not apply. For example, if you wanted to study how to get students to use the computer lab in a college environment, you might first have to do exploratory research to figure out which students might need the lab and what appeals to this demographic. Exploratory research clarifies problems, gathers data and creates initial hypothesis and theories about subjects. The primary point of exploratory research is to give researchers pertinent information and help them to form initial hypotheses about the subject. Exploratory research is challenging in the sense that it tackles vaguely defined hypothesis and tries to find answers to questions. This kind of research is social in nature and requires some preliminary work in the direction of the research.
In fact, sociologist Earl Babbie treats exploratory as the purpose of the research saying this kind of research proves to be useful when the hypothesis has yet not been formed or developed. There are certain basic premises that need to be tested at the start of an exploratory research. With the help of these hypotheses, the researcher hopes to arrive at more generalizations. Exploratory research is a form of research conducted for a problem that has not been clearly defined. Exploratory research helps determine the best research design, data collection method and selection of subjects. It should draw definitive conclusions only with extreme caution. 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. For example, 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 websites may be created to attract worldwide feedback on any subject.
When the purpose of research is to gain familiarity with a phenomenon or acquire new insight into it in order to formulate a more precise problem or develop hypothesis, the exploratory studies ( also known as formulative research ) come in handy. If the theory happens to be too general or too specific, a hypothesis cannot to be formulated. Therefore a need for an exploratory research is felt to gain experience that will be helpful in formulative relevant hypothesis for more definite investigation
Descriptive research is done with a specific research question in mind. It gives a set view of the subject, population, market segment or problem. An example of descriptive research would be a report that provides an age and gender breakdown of the users of a particular online service. Descriptive research provides research questions, populations or methods of analysis before the research is started. In marketing, it often consists of longitudinal studies, which study the behavior of individuals over time, and cross-sectional studies, which examine many populations at one specific time.
As the name implies, a descriptive research is descriptive in nature and gathers statistics, which is later carefully studied to arrive at conclusions. In fact, descriptive research often leads to formulation of hypothesis as collation and analysis of data produces conclusions that form the basis of another research. So, if there is a research about the use of alcohol among teenagers, it typically begins with collection of data that is descriptive in nature and lets people know the age and drinking habits of students. Descriptive research is helpful for calculations and to arrive at statistical tools such as median, averages, and frequencies.
Descriptive research, also known as statistical research, describes data and characteristics about the population or phenomenon being studied. However, it does not answer questions about e.g.: how/when/why the characteristics occurred, which is done under analytic research. Although the data description is factual, accurate and systematic, the research cannot describe what caused a situation. Thus, Descriptive research cannot be used to create a causal relationship, where one variable affects another. In other words, descriptive research can be said to have a low requirement for internal validity. The description is used for frequencies, averages and other statistical calculations. Often the best approach, prior to writing descriptive research, is to conduct a survey investigation.
There are three main types of descriptive methods: observational methods, case-study methods and survey methods.
With the observational method (sometimes referred to as field observation) animal and human behavior is closely observed. There are two main categories of the observational method — naturalistic observation and laboratory observation. The biggest advantage of the naturalistic method of research is that researchers view participants in their natural environments. This leads to greater ecological validity than laboratory observation, proponents say. Ecological validity refers to the extent to which research can be used in real-life situations. Proponents of laboratory observation often suggest that due to more control in the laboratory, the results found when using laboratory observation are more meaningful than those obtained with naturalistic observation. Laboratory observations are usually less time-consuming and cheaper than naturalistic observations. Of course, both naturalistic and laboratory observation are important in regard to the advancement of scientific knowledge.
Case Study Method
Case study research involves an in-depth study of an individual or group of indviduals. Case studies often lead to testable hypotheses and allow us to study rare phenomena. Case studies should not be used to determine cause and effect, and they have limited use for making accurate predictions. There are two serious problems with case studies — expectancy effects and atypical individuals. Expectancy effects include the experimenter’s underlying biases that might affect the actions taken while conducting research. These biases can lead to misrepresenting participants’ descriptions. Describing atypical individuals may lead to poor generalizations and detract from external validity.
Survey method research, participants answer questions administered through interviews or questionnaires. After participants answer the questions, researchers describe the responses given. In order for the survey to be both reliable and valid it is important that the questions are constructed properly. Questions should be written so they are clear and easy to comprehend.
What is the difference between Descriptive and Exploratory Research? • Descriptive research, being quantitative in nature, is restrictive in terms of open ended questions, which can be better answered using exploratory research. • Flexibility of design is offered by exploratory research more than by descriptive research. • Descriptive research is used more to arrive at statistical tools such as mean, average, median and frequency. On the other hand, exploratory research allows the researcher to develop designs that are more qualitative in nature.
• The amount of information known to the researcher at the start of the research plays an important role in deciding upon the type of research. With only vague ideas in the minds of the researcher, it is better to go for exploratory design. On the other hand, more information such as quantitative data allows a researcher to go for descriptive research that leads to unearthing causal relationships. • Exploratory research needs to be conducted first to have a platform that allows for collation of data required in descriptive research.
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