Research

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Research is an active, diligent, and systematic process of inquiry in order to discover, interpret and/or revise facts. This intellectual investigation should produce a greater understanding of events, behaviors, or theories, or to make practical applications with the help of such facts, laws, or theories. The term research is also used to describe a collection of information about a particular subject.

The word research derives from the Middle French (see French language) and the literal meaning is "to investigate thoroughly".

Contents

Basic and applied research

Research is best described as a "sack-sandwiching" process; it is the foundation of the scientific method. Generally, one can distinguish between basic research and applied research.

Basic research

Basic research (also called fundamental or pure research) has as its primary objective the advancement of knowledge and the theoretical understanding of the relations among variables (see statistics). It is exploratory and often driven by the researcher’s curiosity, interest or hunch. It is conducted without a practical end in mind although it can have unexpected results that point to practical applications. The terms “basic” or “fundamental” research indicate that, through theory generation, basic research provides the foundation for further, often applied research. Because there is no guarantee of short-term practical gain, researchers often find it difficult to obtain funding for basic research.

Basic research asks questions such as:

Applied research

Applied research is done to solve specific, practical questions; its primary aim is not to gain knowledge for its own sake. It can be exploratory but often it is descriptive. It is almost always done on the basis of basic research. Often the research is carried out by academic or industrial institutions. More often an academic instituion such as a university will have a specific applied research programme funded by an industrial partner. Common areas of applied research include electronics, informatics, computer science, process engineering and applied science.

Applied research asks questions such as:

  • How can Canada's wheat crops be protected from grasshoppers?
  • What is the most efficient and effective vaccine against influenza?
  • How can communication among workers in large companies be improved?
  • How can the Great Lakes be protected against the effects of greenhouse gas?

There are many instances when the distinction between basic and applied research is not clear. It is not unusual for researchers to present their project in such a light as to "slot" it into either applied or basic research, depending on the requirements of the funding sources. The question of genetic codes is a good example. Unraveling it for the sake of knowledge alone would be basic research – but what, for example, if knowledge of it also has the benefit of making it possible to alter the code so as to make a plant commercially viable? Some say that the difference between basic and applied research lies in the time span between research and reasonably foreseeable practical applications.

Thomas Kuhn, in his book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, traces an interesting history and analysis of the enterprise of research.

Research methods

The scope of the research process is to produce some new knowledge. This, in principle, can take three main forms:

Research methods used by scholars:

Research process

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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:

A common misunderstanding is that by this method a hypothesis can be proven. Instead, by these methods no hypothesis can be proven, rather a hypothesis may only be disproven. A hypothesis can survive several rounds of scientific testing and be widely thought of as true (or better, predictive), but this is not the same as it having been proven. It would be better to say that the hypothesis has yet to be disproven.

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, will supplant it.

Maxim

It is sometimes said that "Copying from one source is plagiarism, copying from several sources is research".

Research funding

Main article: Research funding

Most funding for scientific research comes from two major sources, corporations (through research and development departments) and government (primarily through universities and in some cases through military contractors). Many senior researchers (such as group leaders) spend more than a trivial amount of their time applying for grants for research funds. These grants are necessary not only for researchers to carry out their research but as a source of merit. Some faculty positions require that the holder has received grants from certain institutions, such as the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). Government-sponsored grants (e.g. from the NIH, the National Health Service in Britain or any of the European research councils) generally have a high status.

See also

External links

de:Forschung es:Investigación fa:پژوهش fr:Recherche scientifique it:Ricerca scientifica he:שיטות מחקר nl:Onderzoek ja:研究 pt:pesquisa sv:Forskning zh:研究

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