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Explanatory Research | Definition, Guide, & Examples

Published on December 3, 2021 by Tegan George and Julia Merkus. Revised on January 20, 2023.

Explanatory research is a research method that explores why something occurs when limited information is available. It can help you increase your understanding of a given topic, ascertain how or why a particular phenomenon is occurring, and predict future occurrences.

Explanatory research can also be explained as a “cause and effect” model, investigating patterns and trends in existing data that haven’t been previously investigated. For this reason, it is often considered a type of causal research .

Table of contents

When to use explanatory research, explanatory research questions, explanatory research data collection, explanatory research data analysis, step-by-step example of explanatory research, explanatory vs. exploratory research, advantages and disadvantages of explanatory research, frequently asked questions about explanatory research.

Explanatory research is used to investigate how or why a phenomenon takes place. Therefore, this type of research is often one of the first stages in the research process, serving as a jumping-off point for future research. While there is often data available about your topic, it’s possible the particular causal relationship you are interested in has not been robustly studied.

Explanatory research helps you analyze these patterns, formulating hypotheses that can guide future endeavors. If you are seeking a more complete understanding of a relationship between variables, explanatory research is a great place to start. However, keep in mind that it will likely not yield conclusive results.

You analyzed their final grades and noticed that the students who take your course in the first semester always obtain higher grades than students who take the same course in the second semester.

Explanatory research answers “why” and “how” questions, leading to an improved understanding of a previously unresolved problem or providing clarity for related future research initiatives.

Here are a few examples:

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After choosing your research question, there is a variety of options for research and data collection methods to choose from.

A few of the most common research methods include:

The method you choose depends on several factors, including your timeline, budget, and the structure of your question. If there is already a body of research on your topic, a literature review is a great place to start. If you are interested in opinions and behavior, consider an interview or focus group format. If you have more time or funding available, an experiment or pilot study may be a good fit for you.

In order to ensure you are conducting your explanatory research correctly, be sure your analysis is definitively causal in nature, and not just correlated.

Always remember the phrase “correlation doesn’t mean causation.” Correlated variables are merely associated with one another: when one variable changes, so does the other. However, this isn’t necessarily due to a direct or indirect causal link.

Causation means that changes in the independent variable bring about changes in the dependent variable. In other words, there is a direct cause-and-effect relationship between variables.

Causal evidence must meet three criteria:

Correlation doesn’t imply causation, but causation always implies correlation. In order to get conclusive causal results, you’ll need to conduct a full experimental design .

Your explanatory research design depends on the research method you choose to collect your data . In most cases, you’ll use an experiment to investigate potential causal relationships. We’ll walk you through the steps using an example.

Step 1: Develop the research question

The first step in conducting explanatory research is getting familiar with the topic you’re interested in, so that you can develop a research question .

Let’s say you’re interested in language retention rates in adults.

You are interested in finding out how the duration of exposure to language influences language retention ability later in life.

Step 2: Formulate a hypothesis

The next step is to address your expectations. In some cases, there is literature available on your subject or on a closely related topic that you can use as a foundation for your hypothesis . In other cases, the topic isn’t well studied, and you’ll have to develop your hypothesis based on your instincts or on existing literature on more distant topics.

You phrase your expectations in terms of a null (H 0 ) and alternative hypothesis (H 1 ):

Step 3: Design your methodology and collect your data

Next, decide what data collection and data analysis methods you will use and write them up. After carefully designing your research, you can begin to collect your data.

You compare:

During the study, you test their Spanish language proficiency twice in a research design that has three stages:

You made sure to control for any confounding variables , such as age, gender, proficiency in other languages, etc.

Step 4: Analyze your data and report results

After data collection is complete, proceed to analyze your data and report the results.

You notice that:

To determine whether these differences are significant, you conduct a mixed ANOVA. The ANOVA shows that all differences are not significant for the pre-test, but they are significant for the post-test.

Step 5: Interpret your results and provide suggestions for future research

As you interpret the results, try to come up with explanations for the results that you did not expect. In most cases, you want to provide suggestions for future research.

However, this difference is only significant after the intervention (the Spanish class.)

You decide it’s worth it to further research the matter, and propose a few additional research ideas:

It can be easy to confuse explanatory research with exploratory research. If you’re in doubt about the relationship between exploratory and explanatory research, just remember that exploratory research lays the groundwork for later explanatory research.

Exploratory research questions often begin with “what”. They are designed to guide future research and do not usually have conclusive results. Exploratory research is often utilized as a first step in your research process, to help you focus your research question and fine-tune your hypotheses.

Explanatory research questions often start with “why” or “how”. They help you study why and how a previously studied phenomenon takes place.

Exploratory vs explanatory research

Like any other research design , explanatory research has its trade-offs: while it provides a unique set of benefits, it also has significant downsides:


Explanatory research is a research method used to investigate how or why something occurs when only a small amount of information is available pertaining to that topic. It can help you increase your understanding of a given topic.

Exploratory research aims to explore the main aspects of an under-researched problem, while explanatory research aims to explain the causes and consequences of a well-defined problem.

Explanatory research is used to investigate how or why a phenomenon occurs. Therefore, this type of research is often one of the first stages in the research process , serving as a jumping-off point for future research.

Quantitative research deals with numbers and statistics, while qualitative research deals with words and meanings.

Quantitative methods allow you to systematically measure variables and test hypotheses . Qualitative methods allow you to explore concepts and experiences in more detail.

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explanatory analysis thesis

Tips and Examples for Writing Thesis Statements

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This resource provides tips for creating a thesis statement and examples of different types of thesis statements.

Tips for Writing Your Thesis Statement

1. Determine what kind of paper you are writing:

If you are writing a text that does not fall under these three categories (e.g., a narrative), a thesis statement somewhere in the first paragraph could still be helpful to your reader.

2. Your thesis statement should be specific—it should cover only what you will discuss in your paper and should be supported with specific evidence.

3. The thesis statement usually appears at the end of the first paragraph of a paper.

4. Your topic may change as you write, so you may need to revise your thesis statement to reflect exactly what you have discussed in the paper.

Thesis Statement Examples

Example of an analytical thesis statement:

The paper that follows should:

Example of an expository (explanatory) thesis statement:

Example of an argumentative thesis statement:

Guide on Writing an Exceptional Explanatory Thesis Statement

Girl writing explanatory thesis

Writing is fun, especially when you bring your best to it. You get to pour all your ideas on paper in a creative way for someone else to read. But, as the popular saying goes, history is always written by the victor because the vanquished cannot tell their story. Therefore, any topic, situation, or event has various views and story versions. As problematic as that might sound, that is the general truth to telling a story or giving an explanation.

What Is Explanatory Thesis Definition?

What does an explanatory thesis statement do, what are some explanatory thesis statement examples, how to write an explanatory thesis.

A more modern ideology is employed to explain an event or influence one’s thinking. If explaining a compelling argument is the way to go, the best option would be to use logic and evidence to show that the explanation is valid. This, in a nutshell, is what an explanatory essay or thesis is all about. This written piece teaches you to write a thesis and provide explanatory thesis examples. With that in mind, let’s start with a definition.

An explanatory thesis is a form of writing where the writer showcases an opinion or viewpoint on a certain topic or different topics governed by events or situations. It is a writing type equipped with a method such that when the author narrates or describes certain events or topics, there might be a case for you to align your point of view with theirs.

Although, in essence, the view doesn’t have to be one the author fully agrees with or wants you to agree with either. This thesis type aims to conduct extensive research and apply logic to feasible explanatory points. For instance, if you’re a writer of an explanatory thesis, you need to choose a particular topic and approach the discussion of that topic from a specific angle.

Usually, this angle tends to emerge from a personal experience or specific point of view; hence it may be challenging to understand at first glance. So, it would be best if you represented your angle of discussion in a way that sufficiently explains your opinion or the outcome you intend to reach.

Typically, most writers do not know how to write an explanatory thesis. Instead, these writers tend to come from the point that they are defending one side of an argument or criticizing a particular perspective. That is not what this type of thesis entails. Instead, explanatory writing is essentially about presenting a topic for discussion and approaching it from a neutral viewpoint through the provision of research and analysis to back the points of the thesis up.

The fundamental goal of writing an explanatory thesis is to cover the trenches of confusion and offer a lucid explanation as to why the viewpoint is being discussed or approached in a particular manner. The main angle of an explanatory thesis is usually the explanatory thesis statement.

An explanatory thesis statement is a basic opinion the author stands for or the major points they are trying to pass across concerning the subject of discussion. The thesis statement contains the controlling viewpoint of the thesis and gives the direction and unifying element to all the points later mentioned in writing. A well-written explanatory thesis statement convinces the reader that the thesis is valid.

You may be curious about the best example of an explanatory thesis statement, but there is no one-size-fits-all for every explanatory thesis. Instead, each statement is designed towards a particular subject in mind. The first step to writing an effective explanatory statement is to summarize the main objective of the topic into one detailed statement.

Secondly, the statement should follow the thesis subject clearly to be further broken down for explanation. Thirdly, the explanatory thesis statement must contain the main ideas of the topic, and finally, all these must fit into one well-written declarative statement.

Thesis statements are structurally written at the end of the paper’s first paragraph. The explanatory thesis statement examples about to be given must follow the same structure in writing.

A good explanatory thesis statement example is “the life of a regular employee characterized by time in the office, amount of holidays, and time spent socializing with coworkers.” Another good one is “Art, movies, and literature can define Canada’s cultural identity.”

Usually, students in higher education are assigned an explanatory thesis to write. For instance, a student can be asked to write an explanatory essay on World War One and its effects worldwide or explain the impact of technology on modern civilization.

Major examples of an explanatory thesis statement include:

As a student, to provide a well-written explanatory thesis, you should refrain from debate or arguments in your piece. As mentioned earlier, being completely neutral in your expression is one of the key facets of an explanatory thesis. Therefore, before you begin your writing, you have to conduct extensive research and scrutinize your opinion to combine unique ideas and general worldviews.

Afterward, you need to generate a compelling and controlling explanatory thesis statement. A good thesis statement is a brief expression representing the main idea that will guide your readers through the entire written paper. The size of your explanatory essay depends on the data collected and presented in your piece.

The best explanatory thesis is one that has:

The introduction contains the thesis statement and the general outlook of the thesis. The body should describe a comprehensive idea of the thesis statement and the subject matter being discussed. The conclusion combines and rounds off all the ideas discussed to give the thesis a refined finish.

Writing an explanatory thesis may come off as very easy, but mistakes can easily be made, and proper research is required to give accurate accounts of the ideas expressed. With some focus and a reminder of the main aim of an explanatory thesis paper, you should have no problem creating a properly written piece.

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Great Explanatory Thesis Esamples


Analytical Thesis Statement Examples for You

There are different types of thesis statements, each one performing different functions to reach similar goals in writing. Analytical writing as the name implies is a form of writing that analyses a topic or subject matter from different points of view. If you’re writing an analytical essay, it is required that you include the pros, cons, good, bad, and ugly. This form of writing would require an analytical thesis statement to help lay the foundation for you to begin writing. There are some analytical thesis statement examples here that you may find helpful as you write

What is an Analytical Thesis Statement?

An analytical thesis statement is a thesis that is often used in analytical writings to introduce the topic. The primary function of the analytical essay thesis is to critically examine your write-up, and guide you as you write. This is achievable through:

Usually, your topic is supposed to be included in your thesis statement. This is because it introduces the work. However, in analytical thesis statements, your topic is broken into smaller parts that the body of your writing would cover. This includes the themes, scene, characters, etc. An analytical thesis example on the topic “racism” should include features like the negative effects of racism, the characteristics of racism, an occasion when racism has been exhibited, etc.

Your analytical thesis statement is useless if there is no connecting factor between the sections that you wish to examine. You must understand that each part plays a role to achieve a goal. Using the sample of explanation essay on the topic “dieting”, you should not input themes that have to do with child abuse into your work. In the same vein, your thesis statement is incomplete without stating the reason for including something beyond what is written in your topic. Always remember that each word carries a meaning.

If you’re analyzing a topic, the chances that someone already analyzed similar topics is extremely high. This could be taken as an added advantage to make references to existing research and if you want you could study some analytical thesis examples. It could also pose a problem of presenting something different from what has been laid down. Either way, it is important to make an analysis strictly on facts and evidence to back up your thesis statement.

The Role of Analytical Thesis Statements in Analytical Writing

Analytical thesis statements play different roles in your write-up. The primary aim of this kind of thesis is to answer the questions why, how, when, what next? Keep in mind that it is like making inquiries and providing answers to these questions asked.

The thesis helps you outline what your writing should cover, and how to cover them. The body of your work is each point in your thesis given more light. Hence, your thesis and the body of your writing must complement each other. It is for this reason that the thesis is open for revision while writing. Sometimes, people find that they have steered away from the goal of their writing and will have to re-edit their thesis statement.

Many things can be analyzed about a topic. An explanatory example on the topic of rape can be seen as follows:

You’ll find that the subject of discussion is a broad one, and there are many angles to approach it. The thesis tells your reader which areas your writing aims to cover, and why you chose to go through that route.

Features of Analytical Thesis Statements

Some of the features of an analytical thesis statement include;

An analytical thesis statement must be analytical. That is, it is a combination of different components of a subject. It could be unlike this example of explanatory thesis statement:

“The existing problem of racism lingers and is fuelled by socio-ethnic discrimination.”

Rather a good analytical thesis statement sample may be written as:

“The result of the existing problem of racism is seen in the economical and sociopolitical aspect of the world. The socio-ethnic discrimination among a people continues to play a primary role in fuelling this problem.”

While both of the above statements address racism, the analytical statement expands the topic. It further talks about how ethnicity affects the world and is a primary cause of the problem.

You might find that as you create your thesis, you are more critical. An analytical thesis leaves no part of the topic untouched and it depends on you to narrow your research to a specific area. This is why your topic needs to be selected with utmost care.

An analytical thesis statement is often informative because it breaks down a topic into smaller bits. This pattern helps get the most out of a given topic. Be that as it may, all of the information that the thesis statement gives is important. You do not want your thesis to be too long and boring.

Like other thesis examples, an analytical thesis statement could be one or two sentences. Some sample explanatory essays have up to three sentences thesis statements. Below are analysis thesis statement examples that could be one or more than one sentence. The explanatory examples depend on the complexity of the topic being handled or analyzed.

Your analytical writing is incomplete without a well-structured thesis statement. It is hence important that you take your time in crafting out a thesis statement. The guidelines and analytical essay thesis examples in this article will help make your work easier.

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  1. Explanatory Research

    Explanatory research is a research method that explores why something occurs when limited information is available. It can help you increase your understanding of a given topic, ascertain how or why a particular phenomenon is occurring, and predict future occurrences.

  2. Creating a Thesis Statement, Thesis Statement Tips

    1. Determine what kind of paper you are writing: An analytical paper breaks down an issue or an idea into its component parts, evaluates the issue or idea, and presents this breakdown and evaluation to the audience. An expository (explanatory) paper explains something to the audience.

  3. How to Write Explanatory Thesis Statement: Ideas, Examples

    In an expository essay, you’ll aim to explain the facts of a topic or process. Your thesis statement doesn’t have to include a strong opinion in this case, but it should clearly state the central point you want to make, and mention the key elements you’ll explain. Example: Argumentative essay thesis statement.

  4. Thesis Statements

    In an argumentative essay, a thesis is an overarching argument that you will prove throughout your essay. Similarly, a thesis in an analytical essay is a claim that makes meaning out of something, such as a topic, concept, or text. On the other hand, in an explanatory essay, a thesis is an overarching concept or main idea that you will inform ...

  5. Analytical Thesis Statement Examples

    Here's our first analytical thesis statement example: The symbolism in Salinger's 'Catcher in the Rye' contributes to the sense of melancholia and uncertainty throughout the novel. Writing an...

  6. Analytical Thesis Statement Examples for You

    Analytical Thesis Statement Examples for You The fast-rising trend of intermittent fasting is a result of certain health and mental benefits; it promotes weight... The invention of human realistic robots is proof that technology has advanced over the years in perfection and... The sizzling tension ...