Research is “creative and systematic work undertaken 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.
Research projects can be used to develop further knowledge on a topic, or in the example of a school research project, they can be used to further a student’s research prowess to prepare them for future jobs or reports. 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. The scientific study of research practices is known as meta-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
- Determining specific research questions
- Specification of a conceptual framework, sometimes including a set of hypotheses
- Choice of a methodology (for data collection)
- Data collection
- Verifying 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.