The exploratory research corresponds to the first approach to a specific topic before boarding on a deeper investigative work. It is a process to have basic information related to the research problem. Examples of exploratory research
For example, if a new species of animal is discovered, an exploratory investigation could first be carried out to obtain data on it; morphology, habitat, reproduction, nutrition, behavior, respiration, etc. Later, specific investigations could be carried out to answer specific research questions, such as: how does it breathe? How does it reproduce? How does it feed itself?
From exploratory research, the true implications of a specific problem can be known, as well as which are the most interesting aspects that are pertinent to address in an investigation.
Every research process starts from an exploratory action; Whether the researcher does not fully know the subject to be discussed or wants to understand its scope, exploratory research corresponds to that first approach that will allow a better management of the object of study. Examples of exploratory research
The results of the exploratory research are approximate, so a more in-depth subsequent study will always be needed to corroborate the first deductions and, in some cases, open new lines of research.
Characteristics of the exploratory research
It constitutes a first approximation to the problem
Through exploratory research, researchers will be able to begin to become familiar with the topic that is intended to be developed in an investigative work.
This initial approach is very important to understand the magnitude of the problem, what are the elements or actors involved and what would be some of the most relevant points of interest.
In addition, a first approximation can give indications on how the subject could be approached and if it will be necessary to expand the research to other related areas. Examples of exploratory research
It’s a superficial look
Because it is a first approach, exploratory research is superficial. It is not expected to obtain decisive conclusions as a result of the investigative work; rather, it is expected to have introductory data that will allow us to explain the main characteristics of the topic to be developed.
In exploratory research, researchers rely on approximate data and information obtained through observation, all of which are superficial to some extent. If the research work evolves, then they will consider different methods and deeper approaches.
Allows methodological flexibility
The methods used to obtain the information should not be entirely rigorous. As we have said previously, exploratory research only aims to know the most relevant features of the problem to be developed.
Therefore, the researcher can choose with a little more freedom which methods to use to acquire the information he needs, and can allow himself some flexibility in the collection of such data.
Helps to delimit the research problem
Understanding the topic to be developed prior to entering the study allows researchers to define the problem to be developed much better. Examples of exploratory research
Exploratory research allows a first approach with less pressure of time and resources, since it is carried out before launching a large investigative process.
This makes it easier for researchers to decide in advance and with pertinent information which edges of a topic they will develop; thanks to this the whole process becomes much more efficient.
It is part of the entire investigative process
Any type of investigation must begin with an exploratory investigation. Without having a clear idea (even if it is superficial) about a research problem and its characteristics, it is impossible to carry out an efficient research work that responds directly to the problem in question.
For this reason, the first approach is essential and, if you like, corresponds to one of the most important moments in the entire research process.
You can follow the path traced or open new lines of investigation
In an exploratory investigation, researchers have ample possibilities to decide what will be the handling of the topic to be developed. Examples of exploratory research
If after their observations they consider that the considered approach is valid and pertinent, they can develop it in a much deeper investigative work.
On the contrary, if they determine that the perspective taken into account does not constitute a valid research problem, they have all the freedom to discard the chosen problem and consider new lines of research, related or not to the first topic.
When a researcher approaches a research problem for the first time, he should not rely only on his own observation, since the idea is to have a clear idea and as soon as possible to be able to decide assertively whether or not it is pertinent to delve into the problem. selected.
Therefore, there are two main types of exploratory research that researchers usually apply: consultation with experts in the area and documentary review.
This type of exploratory research allows you to obtain a great deal of valuable information from people who are knowledgeable about the subject.
For it to work properly, the experts to consult must be chosen with great care. They must be people who handle the subject fully, who have studied this or other directly related subjects and who have relevant information in relation to it. Examples of exploratory research
Failure to select the correct team of experts will run the risk of having little useful information, which will lead to erroneous approximations and will play against an efficient investigation process.
The documentary review in exploratory research consists of approaching the subject of study through bibliographic data that have a direct link with the research problem.
Within this scope, other research works are included, such as theses, projects or reports, as well as specialist books, surveys, statistics and any type of analysis that is related to the chosen problem.
It is important that the documentary sources considered are reliable and that their veracity can be verified. Otherwise, the entire investigation will be based on weak elements.
It is prudent to go to publications edited by prestigious universities, recognized research centers and / or long-standing researchers with wide recognition in the study area.
As mentioned above, the design of an exploratory research allows some flexibility, since the main function of this type of research is not to obtain fully verified answers, but rather to be the entry point for a deeper development of the topic. Examples of exploratory research
Therefore, the research design will depend on the choice of the researcher, and the same will happen with the methods that he finally uses.
One of the most recommended designs links two methods and research. That is, a direct approach is considered through surveys, interviews and other tools of direct access to the problem to be investigated.
This approach is complemented by the review of research carried out in the past and related to the subject, carried out by recognized experts in the research field. Each of these methods will be explained in detail in the next section.
Methods for exploratory research
There are two main methods associated with exploratory research: the first involves a direct approach by the researcher to the problem to be developed; the second implies an approach to the problem through the work of third parties. Below we will detail the characteristics of each variant:
Through the primary method, the researcher directly approaches the elements related to the topic to be developed. In this way, he takes first-hand information and collects it, and then analyzes it and verifies whether he can actually proceed with the investigation.
One of the main tools of this design is observation. Through this, the researcher obtains a first notion of the characteristics of the study problem. There is no interaction with the subject, but their reactions related to the topic that is being developed are observed. Examples of exploratory research
Likewise, the researcher can also make use of other statistical tools such as surveys; These can provide valuable information very quickly.
Interviews with subjects linked to the research problem can also be scheduled, as well as focus groups with relevant actors that help to have a clear notion of the problem.
Through the secondary method, the researcher obtains the argumentation from sources external to him, such as previous works, published books related to the subject or even case studies that develop problems equal to or related to the one chosen.
Since it will not be the researcher who collects the information first-hand, it is important to be completely sure that the selected data is plausible; The foundations of an exploratory investigation should involve only verified information.
Steps for an exploratory investigation
Establishment of the research problem
The first action necessary in the framework of an exploratory research is to choose what will be the topic to be developed. Examples of exploratory research
As in any other research, the ideal is that the chosen problem has an impact on a specific group and whose solution is necessary to generate progress, whatever the specific area.
This first approach to the subject can be open; in fact, one of the characteristics of exploratory research is that it helps in the delimitation of the topic, so at the beginning of the process it can be broad.
Confirmation or denial of the problem
Through the aforementioned research methods, the researcher must verify whether the chosen problem is indeed valid and viable, or if, on the contrary, it must be approached from another point of view.
It is important that during this stage the researcher collects as much information as possible, through which he can get a first idea of the implications and scope of the research problem.
This stage will be essential for the rest of the process, it is decisive to decide whether or not to continue with the investigation. Examples of exploratory research
Generating a hypothesis
Ultimately, an exploratory investigation seeks to generate a hypothesis that leads to the development of other, more in-depth investigations.
Once you have determined what is the fundamental notion related to the chosen research problem and what the implications are, you can create a hypothesis that is supported by the information collected.
As we have indicated previously, this hypothesis can follow the line of the original problem, or it can pose a completely different situation that merits study. The researcher is the one who must make this decision.
It may happen that at the end of the process a hypothesis cannot be generated, either because not enough supporting information was obtained or because it was determined that the research problem does not have the feasibility that is required.
In this case, it is appropriate to pose a new research problem and start the process from the first step.
Women and scientific university careers
In an exploratory research in this area, the research problem may seek to answer the question: “Is there a social prejudice that makes it difficult for women to choose scientific university careers?”
The research should include interviews with members of the faculty of the most prominent universities in the scientific areas of the region in question, as well as surveys of young people who are about to graduate from high school through which they are asked what they want to study at the university. university and why. Examples of exploratory research
It would also be interesting to bring together young people who have expressed their desire to specialize in the scientific area and talk with them about their main motivations and expectations.
Finally, it would be very important to have interviews with women specialists in the area of science, so that they can talk about their own expectations when they began to study, what interested them most in the beginning about science and what were the main obstacles they encountered. found in the process.
All this information should be complemented with research done previously related to the access that women have to scientific university studies, and about professional women who practice in this area of knowledge. Examples of exploratory research
Once all the basic information has been obtained, it could be defined that it is a valid research problem and that it can be deepened through more complex investigations.
Effects of war toys on children
In this case, the research problem could be posed in this way: “toys that refer to war generate violent behavior in the children who use them.”
To get closer to the issue, you can talk with child psychologists who report on the possible implications of this type of toys in infants. You can also contact long-standing toy manufacturers who design these types of instruments.
A focus group can be carried out with children of similar ages to each other and, with the advice of psychologists, talk with them about how they conceive violence and whether they relate it to toys linked to instruments of war. Examples of exploratory research
After having collected the information, the researcher could consider that it is a relevant and viable line of research, so the initial research question is corroborated and taken to the next level in the research field.