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Exploratory research is conducted to clarify ambiguous problems. Management may have discovered general problems, but research is needed to gain better understanding of the dimensions of the problems. Exploratory studies provide information to use in analyzing a situation, but uncovering conclusive evidence to determine a particular course of action is not the purpose of exploratory research. Usually, exploratory research is conducted with the expectation that subsequent research will be required to provide conclusive evidence, It is a serious mistake to rush into detailed surveys before less expensive and more readily available sources of information have been exhausted. In an organisation considering a program to help employees with childcare needs, for example, exploratory research with a small number of employees who have children might determine that many of them have spouses who also work and that these employees have positive reactions to the possibility of an on-site child-care program. In such a case exploratory research helps to crystallize a problem and identify information needs for future research.

The quickest and the cheapest way to formulate a hypothesis in exploratory research is by using any of the four methods: • Literature search
• Experience survey
• Focus group
• Analysis of selected cases

Literature Search
This refers to "referring to a literature to develop a new hypothesis". The literature referred are - trade journals, professional journals, market research finding publications, statistical publications etc Example: Suppose a problem is "Why are sales down?" This can quickly be analyzed with the help of published data which should indicate "whether the problem is an "industry problem" or a "firm problem". Three possibilities exist to formulate the hypothesis. 1. The company's market share has declined but industry's figures are normal. 2. The industry is declining and hence the company's market share is also declining. 3. The industry's share is going up but the company's share is declining. If we accept the situation that our company's sales are down despite the market showing an upward trend, then we need to analyse the marketing mix variables. Example 1: A TV manufacturing company feels that its market share is declining whereas the overall television industry is doing very well. Example 2: Due to a trade embargo imposed by a country, textiles exports are down and hence sales of a company making garment for exports is on the decline. The above information may be used to pinpoint the reason for declining sales.

Experience Survey
In experience surveys, it is desirable to talk to persons who are well informed in the area being investigated. These people may be company executives or persons outside the organisation. Here, no questionnaire is required. The approach adopted in an experience survey should be highly unstructured, so that the respondent can give divergent views. Since the idea of using experience survey is to undertake problem formulation, and not conclusion, probability sample need not be used. Those who cannot speak freely should be excluded from the sample. Example 1:

1) A group of housewives may be approached for their choice for a "ready to cook product". .2) A publisher might want to find out the reason for poor circulation of newspaper introduced recently. He might meet (a) Newspaper sellers (b) Public reading room (c) General public (d) Business community; etc. These are experienced persons whose knowledge researcher can use.

Focus Group
Another widely used technique in exploratory research is the focus group. In a focus group, a small number of individuals are brought together to study and talk about some topic of interest. The discussion is co-ordinated by a moderator. The group usually is of 8-12 persons. While selecting these persons, care has to be taken to see that they should have a common...
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