One of the biggest difficulties of exploratory research is that it is primarily used when there is an absense of known information about a subject. This means you don't have a lot to start from. Here is an outline of suggested methods:
- determine object(s) of study: start with a basic (broad) idea of your object(s) of study and its context
- take a holistic approach: gather as much information about your object(s) of study as possible
- define your viewpoint: consider the various viewpoints you could look at your object from - then choose one
- define your problem
Other various methods that can be used are:
- method of alternating point of view: when looking at the differing ways to view your object of study - presenting all of these can actually help you specify your topic
- analysis: abstraction and generalization
- simplification of observations
- "solving the enigma" - interpretation of results
Exploratory research refers to the research method that does not make use of any earlier theoretical model. This may become necessary for various reasons like no suitable earlier theory being available, a desire to develop a wider and deeper understanding, or distrust of earlier theories.
In absence of any previous models to rely on, the exploratory research must start with taking a holistic look at the subject under study, gathering as much information as possible, without trying to pass judgement on utility of the data.
The subject can then be examined from several different viewpoints and choosing an appropriate one for further study. This process may involve iterative cycles of:
- Preliminary exploration
- Formulation/selection of a view point
- Further exploration
- Deeper understanding
- Formulation/selection of revised view point
This cycle may repeat several times before the researcher comes to a firm viewpoint. Testing of this viewpoint hen becomes the objective of further research.