A Guide To Understanding Explanatory Research

Explanatory research is a research method that explores why something occurs when limited information is available. It can help you increase your understanding of a given topic, ascertain how or why a particular phenomenon is occurring, and predict future occurrences.

Exploratory research is a form of early-stage research that aims to investigate a problem that has not yet been clearly defined. There is little to no prior literature to support or guide the research’s direction at this time. It is a preliminary research strategy that aims to determine and establish the best procedure, data collection process, analytical tools, and overall feasibility but does not produce any definitive results. Exploratory research determines the need for in-depth research by determining whether a particular subject is amenable to additional study in terms of its scope. Such exploratory research serves as a foundation for later research and a guide. Additionally, the depth to which the topic is explored while remaining relevant to its current scope encourages further research using the best practices developed under such exploratory research.

1.3 Exploratory, Descriptive and Explanatory Nature Of Research

Purpose of explanatory research

Explanatory research helps researchers understand a particular problem in depth. This can help them understand a particular subject better. People can comprehend the cause, or hypothesis, behind a phenomenon and make predictions about the future by conducting explanatory research. Some benefits of using explanatory research include:

What is explanatory research?

Explanatory research is a technique for locating specifics in fields where there is little available data. Early on in their descriptive research, researchers use this kind of study to establish a general understanding of their subject. The typical opening of these kinds of research inquiries is “Why is “Explanatory research clarifies various elements of a research study. A method of gathering qualitative data or information that analyzes patterns is through this kind of research.

Explanatory research also looks at how closely two things are related to one another in a cause-and-effect relationship. It explores questions without coming up with a definite conclusion. Explanatory research might be conducted by an animal shelter to determine why animals are more likely to be abandoned in cities. They won’t come to a conclusion even if they discover some influencing factors, like higher populations.

Key characteristics of explanatory research

Due to a few features, explanatory research can be distinguished from other types of research. Some key characteristics of explanatory research include:

Types of explanatory research

Some types of explanatory research include:

Case studies

Case studies enable researchers to examine businesses that encountered similar circumstances. This can give researchers fresh viewpoints to help them more effectively solve their problems. You can develop an understanding of complex issues by taking a close look at a particular group. For instance, a business might look at a case study that another company conducted about incomplete purchases if it wanted to learn why more customers abandon their shopping carts on the company’s website.

Literature research

Finding materials online or in libraries to help establish the theory behind a phenomenon is the process of literature research. Examining articles from magazines, newspapers, trade publications, and academic sources is required. For instance, the company from the previous example might want to look for articles online that discuss decreased sales for businesses


Observations involve researchers watching individuals in natural settings or situations. This enables the researcher to record what a person actually does rather than just what they say. Researchers may want to watch potential customers as they shop online in the abandoned cart scenario. This can aid them in determining whether any deterrents or features on the merchant’s website prevent them from making a purchase. When a pop-up advertisement appears, for example, they might see that a customer leaves the page and forgets to return to finish their order.

Pilot studies

Pilot studies are small-scale tests that people conduct to assess a procedure or method. These occur before conducting larger studies. Pilot studies are used by businesses to determine whether a particular strategy is feasible. As an illustration, the business tracking abandoned carts might conduct a pilot study to determine whether streamlining the checkout process on their website can reduce the number of abandoned carts. Here, they might test the upgrade out on a small number of customers to see if it works before making any long-term changes.

Focus groups

Focus groups bring together a group of roughly 10 people who have knowledge of the phenomenon being studied. Researchers set up meetings to collect information from the group members for the research. A focus group with customers could be held by the business to better understand why customers are reluctant to complete their purchases after adding items to their carts on their website.

In-depth interviews

An in-depth interview is a technique where a researcher converses with an authority on the subject they are researching. Usually, these are people with experiences relating to the topic. You might also want to speak with company executives, like the CEO, to get their viewpoint on the situation. For instance, in the scenario above, you might choose to speak with some customers to determine why they abandon their carts.

How to conduct explanatory research

Use these steps when conducting explanatory research:

1. Identify the problem

To conduct explanatory research, find the subject of your investigation. This is the inquiry you are attempting to address, and it directs your research. Usually, this begins with “Why is. For instance, “Why is food packaged in red more likely to sell than food packaged in blue?”

2. Create a hypothesis

Next, develop a hypothesis for your explanatory research. Hypotheses are proposed explanations for why a situation occurs. In the aforementioned illustration, it’s possible that red packaging makes customers happier.

3. Choose a method

To gather data, select a research method to use. The method you choose will likely depend on your budget as well as other elements like your topic and timeline. For instance, since you are interested in why consumers choose to make certain decisions, you might decide to hold a focus group to ask consumers what they like about food packaging.

4. Collect data

As you conduct your research, begin collecting data. Record your findings to reflect on at a later time. This would entail taking notes or recording audio during the focus group to record what consumers said regarding the food packaging.

5. Evaluate results

Finally, review the data from your research. Even though explanatory research doesn’t produce a formal conclusion, the findings can still be beneficial to a company. Depending on your conclusions, you might decide to carry out additional research to elaborate on a different subject. Results from your explanatory research can inspire new ideas and developments within your organization.


What is explanatory research and examples?

It explores questions without coming up with a definite conclusion. Explanatory research might be conducted by an animal shelter to determine why animals are more likely to be abandoned in cities. They won’t come to a conclusion even if they discover some influencing factors, like higher populations.

What is a explanatory research question?

Explanatory questions (why is…). These questions are about explaining the causes for something. This requires that the relationship between different variables is studied.

What is exploratory vs explanatory research?

Explanatory research aims to explain the causes and effects of a clearly defined problem, whereas exploratory research aims to explore the key aspects of an understudied problem.

Is explanatory research quantitative or qualitative?

Explanatory research is a quantitative method that is used to test a hypothesis by gathering evidence that either supports or contradicts it.

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