Exploratory research is a type 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. A case study is an intensive analysis of an individual unit (e.g., a person, group, or event) stressing developmental factors in relation to context. The case study is common in social sciences and life sciences. Case studies may be descriptive or explanatory. The latter type is used to explore causation in order to find underlying principles. They may be prospective, in which criteria are established and cases fitting the criteria are included as they become available, or retrospective, in which criteria are established for selecting cases from historical records for inclusion in the study. Thomas offers the following definition of case study: "Case studies are analyses of persons, events, decisions, periods, projects, policies, institutions, or other systems that are studied holistically by one or more methods. The case that is the subject of the inquiry will be an instance of a class of phenomena that provides an analytical frame — an object — within which the study is conducted and which the case illuminates and explicates." A pilot experiment, also called a pilot study, is a small scale preliminary study conducted in order to evaluate feasibility, time, cost, adverse events, and effect size (statistical variability) in an attempt to predict an appropriate sample size and improve upon the study design prior to performance of a full-scale research project. Pilot studies, therefore, may not be appropriate for case studies. They are frequently carried out before large-scale quantitative research, in an attempt to avoid time and money being wasted on an inadequately designed project. A pilot study is usually carried out on members of the relevant population, but not on those who will form part of the final sample. This is because it may influence the later behavior of research subjects if they have already been involved in the research. A pilot experiment is often used to test the design of the full-scale experiment which then can be adjusted. It is a potentially valuable insight and should anything be missing in the pilot study it can be added to the full-scale (and more expensive) experiment to improve the chances of a clear outcome. Experience Surveys Analysis A second form of exploratory research is experience surveys. Experience surveys involve talking with knowledgeable individuals, both inside and outside the organization, who may provide insights into the problem. Rarely do experience surveys include a formal questionnaire. Instead, the researcher may simply have a list of topics to be discussed. The survey, then, is much like an informal discussion. For example if Jet Blue is redesigning the interior of its aircraft, it may use experience surveys to speak with interior designers, frequent ﬂyers, ﬂight attendants, and pilots.
Why conduct exploratory research
There are three interrelated purposes of exploratory research. 1. Diagnosing a situation
2. Screening alternatives
3. Discovering new ideas.
Diagnosing a situation
Exploratory research diagnoses the dimensions of problems so that successive research project will be on target. It helps set priorities for research. In some cases exploratory research provides an orientation for management by gathering information on...
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