Research comprises "creative work undertaken on a systematic basis in order to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge of humans, culture and society, and the use of this stock of knowledge to devise new applications." It is used to establish or confirm facts, reaffirm the results of previous work, solve new or existing problems, support theorems, or develop new theories. A research project may also be an expansion on past work in the field. To test the validity of instruments, procedures, or experiments, research may replicate elements of prior projects, or the project as a whole. The primary purposes of basic research (as opposed to applied research) are documentation, discovery, interpretation, or the research and development (R&D) of methods and systems for the advancement of human knowledge. Approaches to research depend on epistemologies, which vary considerably both within and between humanities and sciences. There are several forms of research: scientific, humanities, artistic, economic, social, business, marketing, practitioner research, life,technological,etc.
Forms of research
Scientific research is a systematic way of gathering data and harnessing curiosity. This research provides scientific information and theories for the explanation of the nature and the properties of the world. It makes practical applications possible. Scientific research is funded by public authorities, by charitable organizations and by private groups, including many companies. Scientific research can be subdivided into different classifications according to their academic and application disciplines. Scientific research is a widely used criterion for judging the standing of an academic institution, such as business schools, but some argue that such is an inaccurate assessment of the institution, because the quality of research does not tell about the quality of teaching (these do not necessarily correlate).
Research in the humanities involves different methods such as for example hermeneutics and semiotics, and a different, more relativist epistemology. Humanities scholars usually do not search for the ultimate correct answer to a question, but instead explore the issues and details that surround it. Context is always important, and context can be social, historical, political, cultural, or ethnic. An example of research in the humanities is historical research, which is embodied in historical method. Historians use primary sources and other evidence to systematically investigate a topic, and then to write histories in the form of accounts of the past.
Artistic research, also seen as 'practice-based research', can take form when creative works are considered both the research and the object of research itself. It is the debatable body of thought which offers an alternative to purely scientific methods in research in its search for knowledge and truth.
The word research is derived from the Middle French "recherche", which means "to go about seeking", the term itself being derived from the Old French term "recerchier" a compound word from "re-" + "cerchier", or "sercher", meaning 'search'. The earliest recorded use of the term was in 1577.
Research has been defined in a number of different ways.
A broad definition of research is given by Martyn Shuttleworth - "In the broadest sense of the word, the definition of research includes any gathering of data, information and facts for the advancement of knowledge."
Another definition of research is given by Creswell who states that - "Research is a process of steps used to collect and analyze information to increase our understanding of a topic or issue". It consists of three steps: Pose a question, collect data to answer the question, and present an answer to the question.
The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines research in more detail as "a studious inquiry or examination; especially investigation or experimentation aimed at the discovery and interpretation of facts, revision of accepted theories or laws in the light of new facts, or practical application of such new or revised theories or laws".
Steps in conducting research
Research is often conducted using the hourglass model structure of research. The hourglass model starts with a broad spectrum for research, focusing in on the required information through the method of the project (like the neck of the hourglass), then expands the research in the form of discussion and results. The major steps in conducting research are:
- Identification of research problem
- Literature review
- Specifying the purpose of research
- Determine specific research questions
- Specification of a conceptual framework, usually a set of hypotheses
- Choice of a methodology (for data collection)
- Data collection
- Verify data
- Analyzing and interpreting the data
- Reporting and evaluating research
- Communicating the research findings and, possibly, recommendations
The steps generally represent the overall process; however, they should be viewed as an ever-changing iterative process rather than a fixed set of steps. Most research begins with a general statement of the problem, or rather, the purpose for engaging in the study. The literature review identifies flaws or holes in previous research which provides justification for the study. Often, a literature review is conducted in a given subject area before a research question is identified. A gap in the current literature, as identified by a researcher, then engenders a research question. The research question may be parallel to the hypothesis. The hypothesis is the supposition to be tested. The researcher(s) collects data to test the hypothesis. The researcher(s) then analyzes and interprets the data via a variety of statistical methods, engaging in what is known as empirical research. The results of the data analysis in confirming or failing to reject the Null hypothesis are then reported and evaluated. At the end, the researcher may discuss avenues for further research. However, some researchers advocate for the flip approach: starting with articulating findings and discussion of them, moving "up" to identification research problem that emerging in the findings and literature review introducing the findings. The flip approach is justified by the transactional nature of the research endeavor where research inquiry, research questions, research method, relevant research literature, and so on are not fully known until the findings fully emerged and interpreted.
Rudolph Rummel says, "... no researcher should accept any one or two tests as definitive. It is only when a range of tests are consistent over many kinds of data, researchers, and methods can one have confidence in the results."
Plato in Meno talks about an inherent difficulty, if not a paradox, of doing research that can be paraphrase in the following way, "If you know what you're searching for, why do you search for it?! [i.e., you have already found it] If you don't know what you're searching for, what are you searching for?!"
Generally, research is understood to follow a certain structural process. Though step order may vary depending on the subject matter and researcher, the following steps are usually part of most formal research, both basic and applied:
- Observations and Formation of the topic: Consists of the subject area of ones interest and following that subject area to conduct subject related research. The subject area should not be randomly chosen since it requires reading a vast amount of literature on the topic to determine the gap in the literature the researcher intends to narrow. A keen interest in the chosen subject area is advisable. The research will have to be justified by linking its importance to already existing knowledge about the topic.
- Hypothesis: A testable prediction which designates the relationship between two or more variables.
- Conceptual definition: Description of a concept by relating it to other concepts.
- Operational definition: Details in regards to defining the variables and how they will be measured/assessed in the study.
- Gathering of data: Consists of identifying a population and selecting samples, gathering information from and/or about these samples by using specific research instruments. The instruments used for data collection must be valid and reliable.
- Analysis of data: Involves breaking down the individual pieces of data in order to draw conclusions about it.
- Data Interpretation: This can be represented through tables, figures and pictures, and then described in words.
- Test, revising of hypothesis
- Conclusion, reiteration if necessary
A common misconception is that a hypothesis will be proven (see, rather, Null hypothesis). Generally, a hypothesis is used to make predictions that can be tested by observing the outcome of an experiment. If the outcome is inconsistent with the hypothesis, then the hypothesis is rejected (see falsifiability). However, if the outcome is consistent with the hypothesis, the experiment is said to support the hypothesis. This careful language is used because researchers recognize that alternative hypotheses may also be consistent with the observations. In this sense, a hypothesis can never be proven, but rather only supported by surviving rounds of scientific testing and, eventually, becoming widely thought of as true.
A useful hypothesis allows prediction and within the accuracy of observation of the time, the prediction will be verified. As the accuracy of observation improves with time, the hypothesis may no longer provide an accurate prediction. In this case, a new hypothesis will arise to challenge the old, and to the extent that the new hypothesis makes more accurate predictions than the old, the new will supplant it. Researchers can also use a null hypothesis, which state no relationship or difference between the independent or dependent variables. A null hypothesis uses a sample of all possible people to make a conclusion about the population.
The historical method comprises the techniques and guidelines by which historians use historical sources and other evidence to research and then to write history. There are various history guidelines that are commonly used by historians in their work, under the headings of external criticism, internal criticism, and synthesis. This includes lower criticism and sensual criticism. Though items may vary depending on the subject matter and researcher, the following concepts are part of most formal historical research:
- Identification of origin date
- Evidence of localization
- Recognition of authorship
- Analysis of data
- Identification of integrity
- Attribution of credibility
The goal of the research process is to produce new knowledge or deepen understanding of a topic or issue. This process takes three main forms (although, as previously discussed, the boundaries between them may be obscure):
- Exploratory research, which helps to identify and define a problem or question.
- Constructive research, which tests theories and proposes solutions to a problem or question.
- Empirical research, which tests the feasibility of a solution using empirical evidence.
There are two major types of empirical research design: qualitative research and quantitative research. Researchers choose qualitative or quantitative methods according to the nature of the research topic they want to investigate and the research questions they aim to answer:
- Qualitative research
- Understanding of human behavior and the reasons that govern such behavior. Asking a broad question and collecting data in the form of words, images, video etc that is analyzed and searching for themes. This type of research aims to investigate a question without attempting to quantifiably measure variables or look to potential relationships between variables. It is viewed as more restrictive in testing hypotheses because it can be expensive and time-consuming, and typically limited to a single set of research subjects. Qualitative research is often used as a method of exploratory research as a basis for later quantitative research hypotheses. Qualitative research is linked with the philosophical and theoretical stance of social constructionism.
- Quantitative research
- Systematic empirical investigation of quantitative properties and phenomena and their relationships. Asking a narrow question and collecting numerical data to analyze utilizing statistical methods. The quantitative research designs are experimental, correlational, and survey (or descriptive). Statistics derived from quantitative research can be used to establish the existence of associative or causal relationships between variables. Quantitative research is linked with the philosophical and theoretical stance of positivism.
The quantitative data collection methods rely on random sampling and structured data collection instruments that fit diverse experiences into predetermined response categories. These methods produce results that are easy to summarize, compare, and generalize. Quantitative research is concerned with testing hypotheses derived from theory and/or being able to estimate the size of a phenomenon of interest. Depending on the research question, participants may be randomly assigned to different treatments (this is the only way that a quantitative study can be considered a true experiment). If this is not feasible, the researcher may collect data on participant and situational characteristics in order to statistically control for their influence on the dependent, or outcome, variable. If the intent is to generalize from the research participants to a larger population, the researcher will employ probability sampling to select participants.
In either qualitative or quantitative research, the researcher(s) may collect primary or secondary data. Primary data is data collected specifically for the research, such as through interviews or questionnaires. Secondary data is data that already exists, such as census data, which can be re-used for the research. It is good ethical research practice to use secondary data wherever possible.
Mixed-method research, i.e. research that includes qualitative and quantitative elements, using both primary and secondary data, is becoming more common.
Big data has brought big impacts on research methods that now researchers do not put much effort on data collection, and also methods to analyze easily available huge amount of data have also changed.
Nonempirical refers to an approach that is grounded in theory as opposed to using observation and experimentation to achieve the outcome. As such, nonempirical research seeks solutions to problems using existing knowledge as its source. This, however, does not mean that new ideas and innovations cannot be found within the pool existing and established knowledge. Nonempirical is not an absolute alternative to empirical research because they may be used together to strengthen a research approach. Neither one is less effective than the other since they have their particular purpose within life and in science. A simple example of a nonempirical task could the prototyping of a new drug using a differentiated application of existing knowledge; similarly, it could be the development of a business process in the form of a flow chart and texts where all the ingredients are from established knowledge. Empirical research on the other hand seeks to create new knowledge through observations and experiments in which established knowledge can either be contested or supplements.
Research method controversies
There have been many controversies about research methods stemmed from a philosophical positivism promise to distinguish the science from other practices (especially religion) by its method. This promise leads to methodological hegemony and methodology wars where diverse researchers, often coming from opposing paradigms, try to impose their own methodology on the entire field or even on the science practice in general as the only legitimate one.
Quantitative vs. Qualitative war
According to this view, general scientific methodology does not exist and attempts to impose it on scientists is counterproductive. Each particular research with its emerging particular inquiries requires and should produce its own way (method) of researching. Similar to the art practice, the notion of methodology has to be replaced with the notion of research mastery.
Methodological academic imperialism
Epistemologies of different national sciences and cultural communities may differ and, thus, they may produce different methods of research. For example, psychological research in Russia tends to be rooted in philosophy while in the US and UK in empirism. Rich countries (and dominant cultural communities within them) and their national sciences may dominate scientific discourse through funding and publications. This academic hegemony can translate into impositions of certain research methodologies through the gatekeeping process of international academic publications, conference presentation selection, institutional review boards, and funding.
In present-day Russia, the former Soviet Union and in some Post-Soviet states the term researcher (Russian: Научный сотрудник, nauchny sotrudnik) is both a generic term for a person who carried out scientific research, as well as a job position within the frameworks of the USSR Academy of Sciences, Soviet universities, and in other research-oriented establishments. The term is also sometimes translated as research fellow, research associate, etc.
The following ranks are known:
- Junior Researcher (Junior Research Associate)
- Researcher (Research Associate)
- Senior Researcher (Senior Research Associate)
- Leading Researcher (Leading Research Associate)
- Chief Researcher (Chief Research Associate)
Academic publishing describes a system that is necessary in order for academic scholars to peer review the work and make it available for a wider audience. The system varies widely by field, and is also always changing, if often slowly. Most academic work is published in journal article or book form. There is also a large body of research that exists in either a thesis or dissertation form. These forms of research can be found in databases explicitly for theses and dissertations. In publishing, STM publishing is an abbreviation for academic publications in science, technology, and medicine.
Most established academic fields have their own scientific journals and other outlets for publication, though many academic journals are somewhat interdisciplinary, and publish work from several distinct fields or subfields. The kinds of publications that are accepted as contributions of knowledge or research vary greatly between fields; from the print to the electronic format. A study suggests that researchers should not give great consideration to findings that are not replicated frequently. It has also been suggested that all published studies should be subjected to some measure for assessing the validity or reliability of its factors in order to prevent the publication of unproven findings. Business models are different in the electronic environment. Since about the early 1990s, licensing of electronic resources, particularly journals, has been very common. Presently, a major trend, particularly with respect to scholarly journals, is open access. There are two main forms of open access: open access publishing, in which the articles or the whole journal is freely available from the time of publication, and self-archiving, where the author makes a copy of their own work freely available on the web.
Most funding for scientific research comes from three major sources: corporate research and development departments; private foundations, for example, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; and government research councils such as the National Institutes of Health in the USA and the Medical Research Council in the UK. These are managed primarily through universities and in some cases through military contractors. Many senior researchers (such as group leaders) spend a significant amount of their time applying for grants for research funds. These grants are necessary not only for researchers to carry out their research, but also as a source of merit.
The Social Psychology Network provides a comprehensive list of U.S. Government and private foundation funding sources.
Original research is research that is not exclusively based on a summary, review or synthesis of earlier publications on the subject of research. This material is of a primary source character. The purpose of the original research is to produce new knowledge, rather than to present the existing knowledge in a new form (e.g., summarized or classified).
Original research can take a number of forms, depending on the discipline it pertains to. In experimental work, it typically involves direct or indirect observation of the researched subject(s), e.g., in the laboratory or in the field, documents the methodology, results, and conclusions of an experiment or set of experiments, or offers a novel interpretation of previous results. In analytical work, there are typically some new (for example) mathematical results produced, or a new way of approaching an existing problem. In some subjects which do not typically carry out experimentation or analysis of this kind, the originality is in the particular way existing understanding is changed or re-interpreted based on the outcome of the work of the researcher.
The degree of originality of the research is among major criteria for articles to be published in academic journals and usually established by means of peer review. Graduate students are commonly required to perform original research as part of a dissertation.
The controversial trend of artistic teaching becoming more academics-oriented is leading to artistic research being accepted as the primary mode of enquiry in art as in the case of other disciplines. One of the characteristics of artistic research is that it must accept subjectivity as opposed to the classical scientific methods. As such, it is similar to the social sciences in using qualitative research and intersubjectivity as tools to apply measurement and critical analysis.
Artistic research has been defined by the University of Dance and Circus (Dans och Cirkushögskolan, DOCH), Stockholm in the following manner - "Artistic research is to investigate and test with the purpose of gaining knowledge within and for our artistic disciplines. It is based on artistic practices, methods and criticality. Through presented documentation, the insights gained shall be placed in a context." Artistic research aims to enhance knowledge and understanding with presentation of the arts. For a survey of the central problematics of today's Artistic Research, see Giaco Schiesser.
According to artist Hakan Topal, in artistic research, "perhaps more so than other disciplines, intuition is utilized as a method to identify a wide range of new and unexpected productive modalities". Most writers, whether of fiction or non-fiction books, also have to do research to support their creative work. This may be factual, historical, or background research. Background research could include, for example, geographical or procedural research.
The Society for Artistic Research (SAR) publishes the triannual Journal for Artistic Research (JAR), an international, online, open access, and peer-reviewed journal for the identification, publication, and dissemination of artistic research and its methodologies, from all arts disciplines and it runs the Research Catalogue (RC), a searchable, documentary database of artistic research, to which anyone can contribute.
Patricia Leavy addresses eight arts-based research (ABR) genres, they are: narrative inquiry, fiction-based research, poetry, music, dance, theatre, film, and visual art.
- European Charter for Researchers
- Undergraduate research
- Internet research
- List of countries by research and development spending
- Open research
- Operations research
- Participatory action research
- Primary research
- Psychological research methods
- Research-intensive cluster
- Scholarly research
- Secondary research
- Society for Artistic Research
- Timeline of the history of scientific method