Understanding the Purposes of Research


Complete the Unit 2 Assignment: Understanding the Purposes of Research

Review examples of the four different purposes of research in the Research Purpose Learning Activity.

Your Chief of Police has started a task force to identify the highest crime areas in your city. He is relying on you to advise him on the best way to determine these areas based on your research methodology expertise.

Therefore, you must draft an essay to help the chief understand the four major purposes of research as well as to indicate which is the best approach for identifying the highest crime areas.

In a minimum of 1 – 2 pages of written text (not including the cover page and reference page), you will:

Identify and describe the 4 purposes of research

Provide an example for each purpose of research

Indicate the relationship among the 4 purposes of research

Indicate which of the 4 purposes would be best for identifying the highest crime areas in the city


Understanding the Purpose of Research

Research is of great significance in the modern world. Research is undertaken for four main purposes which include: exploration, description, explanation, and application. The four purposes cannot be said to be mutually exclusive, but depend on the emphasis of research. Thus the purpose of a research study may develop or change with time.

Exploratory research is conducted when there is little research or earlier studies conducted on a particular problem (Babbie, 2008). The main focus of the research is to gain insight into a particular problem under investigation. Exploratory research can be conducted to investigate problems during the preliminary levels of investigation. Exploratory research is conducted to fulfill a number of goals. First, it enables researchers to familiarize with the settings of a problem. Second, it helps in development of general theories about a problem and hypothesis formulation. Third, exploratory research helps in determining the feasibility of the study in future.

An example of exploratory research can be derived from the business field. A researcher may opt to conduct an exploratory study about a new style of management technique. The research may help the management in deciding whether to adopt the new technique.

Research is also undertaken to describe a particular problem or phenomenon. Descriptive research aims at explaining or giving more details about a situation or phenomenon under investigation (Babbie, 2008). Descriptive research addresses the ‘what’ of a problem rather than ‘how’, ‘when’, and ‘why’. For example, it may describe the characteristics of a problem under study, rather than why a situation is as such. Descriptive studies do not establish the cause and effect in studying a particular situation, and neither make predictions about them. Instead, they describe situations.

An example of research undertaken for descriptive purposes is profiling of criminals based on their characteristics. A researcher may aim at understanding the characteristics of a particular group of people such as terrorists. The research study may aim at identifying their characteristics or those of other groups.

The other purpose of research is to explain a situation or phenomena. Explanatory research aims at describing the nature of relationships between situations (Blaikie, 2009). Explanatory research defines cause-and-effect relationships. Explanatory research is conducted through statistical research or experimentation such as laboratory experiments. Hypothesis testing is common in explanatory studies.

An example of research conducted for explanatory purposes is research carried out to determine whether a training program is effective in reintegrating prisoners back into the community successfully. This type of research would require analyzing how ex-convicts settle back in their community and how training helps them in gaining new life skills.

The last purpose of research is application. Research is conducted with an aim of applying the findings to real life situations. Research helps in solving complex problems or phenomena by seeking answers that might be of help to individuals (Blaikie, 2009). Research is critical in formulation of policies especially by government, organization, institutions and among other bodies. An example of research undertaken for application purposes is research conducted to establish whether a particular policy will be effective in bringing required change in an organization.

The relationship among the four purposes of the research is that they all seek to explain or describe something that is unknown to the researcher. All of the purposes also aim at establishing the accuracy of particular theories concerning a problem. The best purpose for identifying the highest crime areas in the city is exploratory. Exploratory research helps in gaining new insight about a particular situation. It is undertaken when there is little knowledge about a problem. For instance, in identifying the highest crime areas.



Babbie, E. R. (2008). The basics of social research. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth.

Blaikie, N. (2009). Designing social research the logic of anticipation. Cambridge, Polity.

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