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Exploratory nature of, and uncertainty tolerance in, qualitative research

Yazdan Mansourian (Department of Educational Technology, Faculty of Psychology and Education, Tarbiat Moallem University, Tehran, Iran)

New Library World

ISSN: 0307-4803

Article publication date: 16 May 2008




This paper seeks to depict an overall picture of an exploratory research journey to exemplify how qualitative studies on little understood phenomena can be done successfully. The paper aims to show how the author adopted an appropriate approach and an apposite methodology to cope with the uncertainty, stress and ambiguity arising during exploratory research.


The paper was developed based on a reflective and narrative approach by the author to highlight the pivotal milestones of the reported research. The paper narrates how the research naturally evolved through seven stages including origination, orientation, exploration, elucidation, consolidation, reflection and culmination.


Dealing with uncertainty and ambiguity is inevitable in exploratory studies. Constant interplay with the data, thorough implementation of the employed methodology and deep involvement with the research context are pivotal elements to achieve success in these studies. Finally, findings from an inductive analysis can be considerably consolidated by deductive re‐analysis.

Research limitations/implications

The paper can inspire novice researchers to tolerate the unavoidable vagueness of early stages in qualitative research. It reassures them to trust the emergence of new horizons if they thoroughly follow an apposite methodology. Nevertheless, what is reported here is based on a personal experience of the author, which cannot easily be generalised to other circumstances.


There are few publications in library and information studies journals based on researchers' reflections on what they have learned in their studies which might be useful for future researchers. Thus, this paper can contribute to the area by illustrating the procedure of an exploratory study which began with high uncertainty but ended with satisfactory results.



Mansourian, Y. (2008), "Exploratory nature of, and uncertainty tolerance in, qualitative research", New Library World, Vol. 109 No. 5/6, pp. 273-286.



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Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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