What is Exploratory Research?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 14 October 2019
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Exploratory research in a business setting has to do with engaging in research activity that allows a marketer to investigate and achieve a greater degree of knowledge regarding some type of subject matter. Typically, that subject matter is something that is needed to aid in advancing the goals and aims of the business. Considered to be one or the more broader examples of market research approaches, exploratory research usually goes beyond merely seeking to identify descriptive information and moves on to a more expansive effort that can often provide understandings that enhance the overall marketing approach.

Typically, the task of exploratory research becomes necessary where there are only limited amounts of previous research done on a given topic. In many instances, the goal is to simply gather in as many facts as possible regarding the subject matter. This is somewhat different than other forms of research, which often rely on historical data to arrive at specific conclusions. With exploratory research, there is often not a solid answer to some specific question, but a steady increase in understanding that may eventually point the way to engaging in some sort of research that is aimed toward settling a particular concern or question.


As part of the process of exploratory research, a wide range of resources may be called into play. If there are any pre-existing studies on the subject matter, those are included as part of the fact-gathering mission. In addition, subjective ideas from a target group, such as a group of employees or even a group of competitors, will also be used to further understandings related to the subject. This approach makes it possible to get a better idea on what type of data has been established as fact, as well as the range of myths that may exist on the subject. From there, these generalized perceptions may prove helpful in assisting the company to design a more structured plan for advancing the research into a plan of action that ultimately benefits the mission of the corporation.

Observation, as well as gathering facts and opinions, is also an important part of the exploratory research effort. In many instances, taking the time to observe and analyze the way people respond in specific settings can provide valuable data that aids in the marketing effort. Along the way, this approach can aid in developing more specific questions of hypotheses that ultimately aid in the creation of marketing plans and approaches that could have been overlooked without this important component.


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