Typically in (data-driven) research there are three stages: exploratory, descriptive, predictive
- exploratory: becoming familiar with the data
- descriptive: summarize some of the finding of exploratory stage
- predictive (casual): construct a model of phenomena
Usually there are multiple iterations through these stages; in varios order: e.g. you might have a hypothesis in mind to begin with (predictive); you then might look if it works on your data and analyze results (descriptive), and then might dig in deeper to see why something works or not, or just to get the feel for the data (exploratory).
See also: Scientific Method (wiki)