re·search:NOUN: 1. a detailed study of a subject, especially in order to discover (new) information or reach a (new) understanding.
© Cambridge University Press 2003.
The word "research" is used to describe a number of similar and often overlapping activities involving a search for information. For example, each of the following activities involves such a search; but the differences are significant and worth examining.
|Research type||Essential characteristics|
|1. Find the population of each country in Africa or the total (in dollars) of Japanese investment in the U.S. in 2002.||A search for individual facts or data. May be part of the search for the solution to a larger problem or simply the answer to a bar bet. Concerned with facts rather than knowledge or analysis and answers can normally be found in a single source.|
|2. Find out what is known generally about a fairly specific topic. "What is the history of the Internet?"||A
report or review, not designed
to create new information or insight but to collate and synthesize
existing information. A summary of the past. Answers can typically be found in a selection of books, articles, and Web
[Note: gathering this information may often include activities like #1 above.]
|3. Gather evidence to determine whether gang violence is directly related to playing violent video games.||Gathering and analyzing
a body of information or data and extracting new meaning
from it or developing unique solutions to problems
or cases. This is "real" research and requires an open-ended
question for which there is no ready answer.
[Note: this will always include #2 above and usually #1. It may also involve gathering new data through experiments, surveys, or other techniques.]
In light of the diversity with which the concept "research" is viewed, here are some guidelines to keep in mind before you start on a class research project:
- Understand the assignment. Don't risk selecting inappropriate materials or addressing irrelevant issues. No matter how well you write or speak, this will usually result in poor work. If necessary, discuss the assignment with your instructor.
- Select a topic that interests you. Personal interest makes research more enjoyable and any presentation of the findings more enjoyable for its audience.
- If possible, select a topic you are already researching for another project. This may not only save you some time but allow you to explore different facets of the same topic and build a deeper understanding.
- Select a topic that is not likely to be chosen by others. Imagine a course instructor reading a dozen papers on the same two or three topics. Finding an original topic or perspective is likely to be looked upon favorably (but see #1 above.)