Difference Between Exploratory and Descriptive Research

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: June 03, 2023


Difference Between Exploratory and Descriptive Research

Why read @ Diffzy

Our articles are well-researched

We make unbiased comparisons

Our content is free to access

We are a one-stop platform for finding differences and comparisons

We compare similar terms in both tabular forms as well as in points


Scholars engage in research as a methodical effort to assist broaden our understanding of topics in all disciplines of education. Social sciences along with science areas like physics and biology are studied. Because of their similarities, many various types of research, including descriptive, exploratory, explanatory, and evaluation research, perplex humanity students. For the benefit of the readers, this article attempts to distinguish between descriptive and exploratory research.

Difference Between Exploratory and Descriptive Research in Tabular Form

MEANINGExploratory research is defined as research undertaken to formulate a problem for further inquiry.Descriptive study investigates and explains an individual, group, or circumstance.
OBJECTIVEIdeas and thoughts are discovered.Describe the features and functions.
RESEARCH PROCESSUnstructuredStructured
SAMPLINGSampling without regard for probability.Sampling based on probability.
STATISTICAL DESIGNThere is no pre-planned design for analysis.Design for analysis that has been planned of time.

What Is Exploratory Research?

The fundamental goal of exploratory research, as the name implies, is to investigate a problem to generate insights and comprehension for deeper examination. It is concerned with the finding of ideas and thinking. The exploratory research design is appropriate for investigations that are flexible enough to allow for consideration of all facets of the problem.

The required information is only weakly specified at this point, and the research process is flexible and unstructured. It is utilized when you need to appropriately characterize the problem, identify different courses of action, build a hypothesis, gather more insights before developing a method, and set priority for further investigation. The approaches listed below are used to perform exploratory research.

  • A review of relevant literature.
  • Experience poll.
  • Analysis of exciting insights.

What Is Exploratory Research?

Exploratory research is frequently employed when the problem being studied is novel or if the data collection procedure is difficult for whatever reason.

You can conduct this form of research if you've got a broad notion or a specific subject that you wish to investigate but no prior knowledge or paradigm that allows you to do it.

Exploratory Research Data Collection

It can be difficult to get information about a previously unknown topic. Exploratory research can assist you in narrowing your topic, developing a clear hypothesis and issue statement, and providing you with the "lay of the land" on your topic.

Exploratory research data collecting is frequently divided into primary and secondary research methodologies, with data analysis following the same approach.

1. Primary Research

Data for primary research is gathered from the primary sources: the people who participated. There are numerous methods for gathering primary data.

Here are a few examples:

  • Survey methodology: A survey was distributed to the student body asking if they would eat vegan meals.
  • Focus groups: Forming groups of 8-10 students to discuss what they each think of vegan dining hall offerings.
  • Interviews: Interrogating students as they enter and exit the dining hall to see whether they would eat vegan meals.

2. Secondary Research

Secondary research collects data from previously conducted primary research, such as trials or surveys.

Here are some more examples:

  • Case studies include: An all-vegan diet is good for your health.
  • Review of the literature: Previous studies on students' dietary habits and the way they have evolved through time
  • Polls, surveys, blog entries, or interviews conducted online; social media: Have other schools taken a similar approach?

For some issues, large-n government data, like the decennial census or annual American Community Survey (ACS) open-source data, can be used.

Characteristics of Exploratory Research

Let's look at some of the important elements of exploratory research to better comprehend it:

Nature is unstructured: Structured or standardized data gathering tools, such as closed-ended surveys, are rarely used in exploratory research. This is because such methods of data collecting limit the type of data that may be acquired. A more unstructured approach, such as open-ended inquiries, will allow you to explore multiple dimensions of interest and acquire new knowledge you would not have expected to learn.

Low-cost and engaging: Exploratory research approaches are typically inexpensive and straightforward to implement. Simultaneously, they provide a high level of involvement between the researcher and the research subjects or participants by prompting or motivating them to offer detailed information.

May be time consuming: Exploratory research can be time consuming because it is looking for fresh insights or depth of knowledge. Finding the proper people to participate in the study and convincing them to give the amount of insight you're looking for is one of the most time-consuming elements. If you intend to publish a survey, SurveyMonkey Audience can create a suitable audience in minutes.

Usually qualitative, but occasionally quantitative. Because standardized procedures are rarely used, exploratory research is frequently qualitative in nature. However, quantifiable data can be acquired and generalized for a larger sample in some circumstances by using surveys and experiments.

There are no procedural rules. There are not any rigid rules when it comes to conducting exploratory research. Any strategy or combination of methods can be utilized to collect data if the research is important or valuable. When conducting this type of study, it is critical that you remain adaptable, pragmatic, and open-minded.

Step-By-Step Procedure of Exploratory Research

The method you use to collect data determines how you continue through your exploratory research plan. In most circumstances, you'll take five steps.

Step 1: Identify your issue

The first step of carrying out exploratory research is determining the nature of the problem and if this form of research is appropriate for you to undertake. Note that exploratory research is beneficial when exploring a previously unknown problem.

Step 2: Construct a solution hypothesis

The next stage is to devise a solution to the situation under investigation. Make a speculative assertion to guide your study.

Step 3: Create your methodology.

Next, develop your data gathering and analysis procedures and document them in a research design.

Step 4: Gather and examine data

Following that, you gather and analyze your data to evaluate whether your preliminary results are consistent with your hypothesis.

Because of the heightened danger of Type I errors and data integrity difficulties, you should construct your hypotheses a priori in most forms of research and refrain from modifying them. However, because you are investigating a previously unknown phenomenon with multiple explanations, you are free to revise your hypothesis according to your results through exploratory research.

Step 5: Future research directions

Determine whether you want to keep studying your topic. If this is the case, you will most likely need to switch to a different form of research. Because exploratory research is frequently qualitative, you may need to undertake quantitative research with a bigger sample size to obtain more generalizable conclusions.

What Is Descriptive Research?

We define descriptive research as a sort of conclusive research investigation concerned with documenting the features of a certain individual or group. It comprises study on specific forecasts, characteristics or functions of a person or group, the narrative of events, and so forth.

The descriptive research approach must be properly prepared to get complete and reliable information for the investigation. What the researcher wishes to measure should be carefully defined. How does he intend to quantify? He must explicitly characterize the demographic under investigation. It employs techniques such as quantitative analysis of secondary information, surveys, panels, interviews, and observation questionnaires, and so on.

Descriptive research focuses on developing the study purpose, designing data collection methods, selecting the sample, data gathering, processing, and analysis, and reporting the results.

When to Use Descriptive Research Design

When the goal of the research is to discover traits, frequencies, trends, and classifications, descriptive research is an excellent choice.

It is useful when little is known about a topic or problem. Before you can investigate why anything occurs, you must first understand how, when, and where it occurs.

Characteristics of Descriptive Research

The word descriptive research then describes the research questions, study design, and data analysis performed on that issue. We term it an observational research approach since none of the variables in the research study are changed in any way.

The following are some distinguishing features of descriptive research:

Quantitative research: Quantitative research is an investigation technique that aims to collect measurable information from a population sample for statistical analysis. It is a common market research instrument which enables us to gather information and explain the nature of the demographic segment.

Uncontrolled variables: None of the variables are changed in any way in this case. The research is carried out using observational approaches. As a result, the researcher has no control over the variables' nature or behavior.

Cross-sectional studies: A cross-sectional study is one in which different portions of the same group are investigated.

The foundation for future study: Using various research approaches, researchers further investigate the data acquired and analyzed from descriptive research. The data can also lead to the types of research methodologies that will be used in upcoming studies.

Applications of Descriptive Research

Data collection: A scientist can perform descriptive research utilizing several approaches such as observation, case study, and survey. All primary data collection methods are discussed by these three, which provide a wealth of information. This might be utilized for future research or to generate a hypothesis for your research topic.

Variable: Because the data obtained is both qualitative and quantitative, it provides a comprehensive picture of a research issue. The information is wide, diverse, and comprehensive.

Natural setting: Because descriptive research can be performed in the respondent's natural environment, high-quality and honest data can be acquired.

Quick to perform and cheap: Data gathering is quick and inexpensive because the sample size is often big in descriptive research.

Descriptive Research Method

Although qualitative research may be utilized at times for descriptive purposes, descriptive research is typically characterized as a sort of quantitative study. To guarantee that the findings are genuine and dependable, the study design should be properly constructed.


Surveys allow you to collect enormous amounts of data that can be analysed for frequencies, averages, and patterns. Surveys are commonly used for the following purposes:

  • Defining a country's or region's demographics
  • determining public opinion on political and social issues
  • assessing customer satisfaction with a company's or organization's offerings or services


Observations allow you to collect data about behavior and phenomena with no having to rely on respondents' honesty and accuracy. Psychological, sociological, and market researchers frequently employ this strategy to better understand how individuals behave in real-life circumstances.

Observation of physical things and occurrences is also an important aspect of natural science research. It must carefully and systematically characterize the subject under inquiry before developing testable hypotheses, models, or theories.

Case Study

A case study may be used to explain the features of a particular subject (for example, a person, group, event, or organization). Case studies collect specific data to determine the characteristics of a narrowly defined subject rather than a vast volume of data to identify patterns over time or region.

Main Differences Between Exploratory and Descriptive Research in Points

The distinction between exploratory and descriptive research is obvious on the following grounds:

  • Exploratory research is defined as research undertaken to formulate a problem for further inquiry. Descriptive study is research that investigates and explains an individual, group, or circumstance.
  • The fundamental goal of exploratory research is to find new ideas and thoughts, whereas descriptive research's primary goal is to describe the traits and functions.
  • The general design of the exploratory research ought to be flexible enough to allow for consideration of many facets of the topic. In contrast, the overall design of descriptive research should be strict to protect against bias and maximize reliability.
  • In exploratory research, the research process is unstructured. However, in the context of descriptive research, it is structured differently.
  • In exploratory research, non-probability sampling, also known as judgement or purposive sample, is used. In contrast to descriptive research, which employs a probability (random) sample design.
  • In terms of statistical design, exploratory research does not have a pre-planned design for analysis. In contrast to descriptive research, which has a pre-planned design for analysis.


Thus, regardless of the approach used, exploratory research yields insights or hypotheses; the most important thing is to have it stay flexible so that all aspects of the topic can be investigated as they arise. Descriptive research, on the other hand, is a comparison design that is produced based on the research question and resources available. Such research reduces prejudice while increasing reliability.


Cite this article

Use the citation below to add this article to your bibliography:



MLA Style Citation

"Difference Between Exploratory and Descriptive Research." Diffzy.com, 2023. Wed. 04 Oct. 2023. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-exploratory-and-descriptive-research>.

Edited by

Share this article