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- Main article: Experimentation
Research is often described as an active, diligent, and systematic process of inquiry aimed at discovering, interpreting and revising facts. This intellectual investigation produces a greater understanding of events, behaviors, or theories, and makes practical applications through laws and theories. The term research is also used to describe a collection of information about a particular subject, and is usually associated with science and the scientific method.
The word research derives from Middle French its literal meaning is 'to investigate thoroughly'.
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 any practical end in mind, although it may have unexpected results pointing to practical applications. The terms “basic” or “fundamental” indicate that, through theory generation, basic research provides the foundation for furthInsert non-formatted text hereer, sometimes applied research. As there is no guarantee of short-term practical gain, researchers often find it difficult to obtain funding for basic research.
Examples of questions asked in basic research:
- Does string theory provide physics with a grand unification theory?
- Which aspects of genomes explain organismal complexity?
- How can computational methods be efficiently applied to larger and larger molecular systems?
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 is usually descriptive. It is almost always done on the basis of basic research. Applied research can be carried out by academic or industrial institutions. Often, an academic instituion such as a university will have a specific applied research program funded by an industrial partner interested in that program. Common areas of applied research include electronics, informatics, computer science, process engineering, and drug design.
Examples of question asked in applied research:
- 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.
The scope of the research process is to produce some new knowledge. This, in principle, can take three main forms:
- Exploratory research: a new problem can be structured and identified
- Constructive research: a (new) solution to a problem can be developed
- Empirical research: empirical evidence on the feasibility of an existing solution to a problem can be provided
Research methods used by scholars:
- Action research
- Case study
- Experience and intuition
- Map making
- Mathematical models and simulations
- Participant observation
- Physical traces analysis
- Statistical data analysis
- Statistical surveys
- Textual analysis
- Main article: scientific method
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:
- Formation of the topic
- Conceptual definitions
- Operational definitions
- Gathering of data
- Analysis of data
- Conclusion, revising of hypothesis
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.
Academic publishing describes a system that is necessary in order for academic scholars to review work and make it available for a wider audience. The 'system', which is probably disorganized enough not to merit the title, varies widely by field, and is also always changing, if often slowly. Most academic work is published in journal article or book form. In publishing, STM publishing is an abbreviation for academic publications in science, technology, and medicine.
Most established academic fields have their own 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.
Academic publishing is undergoing major changes, emerging from the transition from the print to the electronic format. Business models are different in the electronic environment. Since about the early 1990s, licensing of electronic resources, particularly journals, was 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.
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 also 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.
- Academic conference
- Comparative research
- Demonstrative evidence
- Empirical research
- Institutional memory
- Internet research
- Lab notebook
- Marketing research
- Open access
- Open research
- Operations research
- Paradigm shift
- Participatory action research
- Peer review
- Philosophy of science
- Psychological research methods
- Social research
- Guardian.co.uk - "Britain a leader in making research available on web", by Richard Wray, The Guardian (May 17, 2005)
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