Exploratory research is research conducted for a problem that has not been studied more clearly, intended to establish priorities, develop operational definitions and improve the final research design. Exploratory research helps determine the best research design, data collection method, and selection of subjects.

  • User and product studies intended to forge an empathic knowledge base
  • Conducted in the early stages of the design process and set by the planning, scoping, and definition phase.
  • The focus is on gaining a solid knowledge base of the design territory and existing artifacts and forging an empathic sense of the people targeted by the design.
  • A variety of diverse yet complementary methods might include contextual inquiry, touchstone tours, surveys, observation, experience sampling, and cultural probes.
  • Research is purposefully flexible, encouraging divergence from planned protocols and the inclusion of data from spontaneous interactions and observations.
  • Synthesis is critical but targeted toward inspiration rather than the formal analysis of concrete data.
  • Exploratory research culminates in a set of tangible design implications, preparing the groundwork for generative research and concept development.

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