a type of research designed to accumulate background information to help define a problem; a prelude to conclusive research that aims to help decision makers choose a course of action in a particular problem or situation. Characterized by the lack of a formal research design. Example: research to gather information on how consumers make decisions on computer purchases, including specific uses of the computer, the criteria used in evaluating alternatives, the number of brands and models considered, the number of stores visited, the importance of advertising in the brand selection process, and the importance of sales help at the retail level. Sometime called informal research. See causal research and descriptive research.