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Dictionary

EXPLORATORY RESEARCH

Pamela Davies

Exploratory research is a methodological approach that is primarily concerned with discovery and with generating or building theory. In a pure sense, all research is exploratory. In the social sciences exploratory research is wedded to the notion of exploration and the researcher as explorer. In this context exploration might be thought of as a perspective, ‘a state of mind, a special personal orientation’ (Stebbins, 2001: 30) toward approaching and carrying out social inquiry. In presenting social inquiry in the above way, Stebbins draws on C. Wright Mills's ‘On Intellectual Craftsmanship’ (Mills, 1959: 195-226). This seminal description of the lifestyle of the social scientist as explorer is a rich and detailed account of how to do exploratory research. Stebbins also develops the notion of ‘concatenated exploration’ (2001: 12) to emphasize how exploration refers to the overall approach ...

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