5 Kinds of Exploratory Questions You May Be Asking Yourself

An exploratory study must always be designed and executed in order to answer a number of a-priory questions. Our experience in dozens of scientific projects has allowed us identify the 5 mostly shared kinds of questions that researchers ask themselves. 

What is an exploratory question?

As I explain in this post, exploratory research is the stage of the research process that aims at connecting ideas as to unveil the “why”s of potential cause/effect relationships. This occurs when researchers get started at understanding what they are actually “observing” when in the process of building cause/effect models.

I use the term "exploratory questions" as equivalent to the formal hypotheses of a confirmatory study, without that level of precision and concretion.

Exploratory questions usually talk about relationships between complex data groups (multidimensional) out of which the more relevant concrete elements are yet unknown.

5 kinds of questions


The 5 kinds of exploratory questions that we have identified out of a number of different scientific research projects are, as follows:


1. Role: aimed at getting to understand the role that a certain group of known factors has over the behavior of our system or part of it (responses) that is also already known. 

An example of such a question might be: 

What is the role that the neuronal structure has over learning and memory performance indicators of our given experimental subjects?. 


2. Characterization: aimed at getting to know and understand better that set of factors that better characterize our experimental groups. 

An example of such a question might be: 

What are the key potential factors characterizing the respondents of my study by gender, age, sexual abuses, psychological profile and emotional condition? 


3. Prediction: aimed at unveiling what factors will help us modelling certain responses of our system. 

An example of such a question might be: 

What gen signatures will help us predicting the evolution of the tumor size in our cancer model? 


4. Differentiation: aimed at identifying what responses are the most different according to a certain already known factor. 

An example of such a question might be: 

What proteins express differently in group control patients? 


5. Thresholds: aimed at getting to know what threshold values are the most relevant in a certain biological process? 

An example of such a question might be: 

At what levels of molecule concentration we register different dynamics in my experimental subjects?

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