Are you entering an undiscovered cave? #researchdesign

After thinking about your project in terms of research question here it is the turn of thinking over the purpose of your research. In other words: “how the way in which you asked your research question would result in either (1) exploratory, (2) descriptive, (3) explanatory or (4) descripto-explanatory study” (Saunders et al, 2009)jeca-04

The current posts aims to understand exploratory studies. The rest will be addressed in future posts

The same way if you enter a cave that nobody has before set foot, exploratory researches take place when you are entering an unknow territory of knowledge. If your research topic is the use of iPhones among teenagers and after a carefully search of literature you couldn´t find any similar study, you are force to make use of a “lantern” in order to “assess the phenomena in a new light” (Robson, 2002)

This kind of research is very useful if you want to clarify your understanding of a problem because you are not sure of its precise nature. It usually occurs with emerging phenomena. Imaging the next situation: you have enough evidences that the new social networks are changing the relation between workers and managers, but you lack of previous literature to understand “what is happening”. For this reason, you decide to undertake an exploratory study. This study will consist of conducting in-depth interviews among a number of both managers and workers in order to know closely the nature of the phenomena. After several interviews you find that the use of such social media as twitter or facebook or own company messenger let managers to control closely their workers behavior. This may have both negative and positive consequences. Negative as workers could feel inhibited at work but also positive because it can help managers to know closely their workers and be more comprehensive.

But this is also a very common purpose in market research industry. Imaging that your company want to export Spanish wine to Poland. In this country, it is well known that either beer or vodka are more popular drink than wine, but nothing is clear about the Polish delight in wine, and even less in spanish wine. For this reason, the company has contacted a market research agency and they plan to do a focus group in Warsaw. The idea of the research is gathering at least eight people between 18 and 55 years old that do not consume wine usually and another group of eight people at the same age who consume wine at least once a month. During the performance of the group they will be provided different kind of wines in order to know their taste. Both Spanish wine but also other “control” brands from France, Italy and Portugal. Looking at their reactions and opinions, as well as their willingness to consume wine more often you will be able to “entering an undiscovered cave with a good lantern”

In conclusion, exploratory studies aims to  contribute with new knowledge to a field that has not been treated previously and, usually, by mean such techniques as in-depth interviews and focus group. Also, exploratory studies usually asume a inductive approach, i.e. to create a theory after the data collection.


Ibáñez, J. (1979). Más allá de la sociología: El Grupo de Discusión: teoría y crítica. Siglo XXI de España Editores.
Lewis, P., Saunders, M. N., & Thornhill, A. (2009). Research methods for business students. Pearson.
Martínez, P., & Rodríguez, P. M. (2008). Cualitativa-mente. ESIC Editorial.
Are you testing or creating a theory when doing your own research project?

Working at theory level when #formulatingaresearch ?

The research “onion” or how to formulate your #researchdesign

What is Exploratory Testing (


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