The Purpose of Exploratory Research

5468 Words Feb 13th, 2011 22 Pages
Exploratory Research

The Purpose of Exploratory Research: Good Research Questions Years ago, before the advent of CAT scanners and other noninvasive medical diagnostic procedures, doctors who were stumped about a patient’s symptoms might recommend “exploratory surgery.” With little to go on but vague descriptions of symptoms, physicians would “open up” a patient to look around and see what needed fixing. In market research, exploratory research plays a similar role. Marketers have no machines to peer inside a decision problem, so they may use certain research techniques to “open up” the problem and look around. Researchers use these techniques, which they refer to collectively as exploratory research, with a single broad purpose: clarify
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Generally, exploratory research techniques simply involve conversations between a researcher and the people being studied. Although the researcher may guide the conversation across certain issues, the questioning is usually informal and semistructured. Thus, the data produced by qualitative research is textual. That is, the research produces a “text.” Although the text is analyzed, the methods of analyses are not statistical; textual data are not numerical and do not lend themselves to statistical analysis. This limitation is important. Researchers and decision makers alike often wish to generalize the conclusions of their research from their samples to some larger population of interest. Textual data do not permit this kind of generalization. On the other hand, assuming other conditions are met, quantitative data may be generalized from a sample to a larger population. Making these generalizations and calculating the margins of error inherent in them requires that the data be numerical. Generally speaking, research procedures such as surveys and experimentation (often called confirmatory and causal research, respectively) produce the quantitative data needed for such analyses. Thus, these two categories of research clearly rely on one another. That is, asking the right questions of the right people in the right way to produce generalizable statistical results requires knowing what to ask, who to ask, and how to ask. These facets of research are often
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