Exploratory, Explanatory, and Descriptive Research

Exploratory, Explanatory, and Descriptive Research

As a researcher, you have numerous study designs at your disposal. It would be best if you staked out a specific territory to find the most suitable approaches to pursue your study hypothesis. You will learn the difference between “research methodologies” and “research designs”, as well as what to look for in choosing the right one for your study. As was previously mentioned, there are three distinct types of research designs to choose from exploratory, explanatory, and descriptive.

Let’s start by focusing on the exploratory nature of the research.

Exploratory Research Design 

Exploration is a way of researching by going out into the world and observing events, describing them, and developing basic models. The official definition says that exploratory research is the initial investigation of a hypothetical or theoretical idea of the phenomena you observe. As the name implies, in exploratory research, the primary idea is to explore. Typically, this sort of study moves in both directions. 

A well-defined area of inquiry can be applied to a newly-emerging phenomenon to solve the problem. Another idea is to begin at the very beginning and work your way up to developing your theories regarding this newly-emerged phenomenon. First, you needed to conduct exploratory research. Then, you could proceed to descriptive research based on those descriptions and initial ideas. 

Descriptive Research Design 

The question arises, “Why do we have to undertake exploratory research and then merely go to descriptive research, which will provide us with solid knowledge and ideas about this phenomenon?”. Often, descriptive research yields a large amount of data. Ultimately, the exploratory character of the study revealed a few distinguishing features of the phenomena.

Descriptive research was maybe able to draw some correlations between these variables. Still, we all know that correlation does not imply causality, so that will be a task for explanatory research. 

Studies of this sort aim to shed light on the interplay between different factors.

Related: The Basics of Descriptive Research, Procedure, and Examples

Explanatory Research Design 

Explaining the relationship between two or more variables is called explanatory research, causal research, or causal-comparative research. A causal connection is the Raison d’etre of causal research, so establishing a cause-and-effect relationship is crucial. An analysis of this type aims to uncover causal relationships between variables and, if so, to identify which variable explains a given behaviour.

Determining the causal relationship between two phenomena is essential if a connection is found. The purpose of explanatory research is to answer the question “why,” which helps businesses develop effective marketing strategies.

Experimental and quasi-experimental studies are typically employed in explanatory research to ascertain the cause-and-effect relationship between variables. In most experimental investigations, participants are divided into control and experimental groups and allocated randomly to one or the other. Quasi-experimental research is a different type of research design. It examines whether there is a correlation between two or more variables and their causes and effects.


In summary, if you are doing exploratory research, your research question would likely begin with what, and you would explore a specific attribute or phenomenon. Think about it because you are trying to explore something, so you are asking yourself what is happening there. 

If you are doing descriptive research, your initial question will likely start with the word “how,” which means you describe how things are happening. 

In explanatory research, your research question deals with “why” you should explain why these things happen, what causes them, and what influences them. 

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Kultar Singh – Chief Executive Officer, Sambodhi

Kultar Singh
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