What is research? Why do we conduct it?

Research is inquiry. It is a process of discovering some new knowledge, that involves multiple elements such as theory development and testing, empirical inquiry, and sharing the generated knowledge with others such as experts and colleagues. A short description about elements of theory is:

Theory is a set of ideas and perceptions that helps people to understand complex concepts and the relationships among these concepts. To develop and/or test a theory, researchers conduct empirical inquiries, collect and analyze relevant data, and discuss the findings from empirical results. Once theories have been through the research process, it is necessary to share the results of the studies with others such as researchers (related to study) present papers at conferences and publish reports in journals and other publications.

The results of a study (research) may be used in two ways.

  1. The results may contribute to researchers’ general understanding of the topic they have researched i.e. studied and may contribute to, understanding how economy works, why price inflation happens, which factors increase a candidate’s chances of winning an election etc. The generalizations of results that researchers draw from their studies on these issues can be shared with other researchers and general public to advance society for the understanding of the topic.
  2. The results of a study may contribute to solving particular problems in a nation, state, or community. For example, a study on the healthcare needs of the elderly in a community may discover that their primary need is finding vehicles for transportation when they want to visit their doctors. The leaders of the community (such as mayor, city council) may use this information from healthcare study, to allocate some money for the transportation needs of the elderly in the next year’s budget.

Therefore, research is a tool which builds blocks of knowledge that in turn contribute to the development of science.

Why conduct research?

  • We conduct research to understand a phenomenon, situation, or behavior under study.
  • We conduct research to test existing theories and to develop new theory on the basis of existing ones.
  • We conduct research to answer different questions of “how”, “what”, “which”, “when” and “why” about a phenomenon, behavior, or situation.
  • Research related activities contribute to forming (making) new knowledge and expand the existing knowledge base.

High-Quality Research

Now a days one can collect/ gather information about almost anything from the Internet Just do a Google search, but a question is, does every Google search good research? Not quite! Do remember, though you will find some of the information, but it may or may not be valid or high-quality information. A lot of the information available on the Internet is good and useful, but some is not. There may be misinformation too on the Internet. The information you find on internet may be someones pure opinion, have some fabrication in it, or based on some unsystematic research or unauthentic information. In short, the information may be valid (objective, true).

Therefor, a high-quality research project

  • is based on the scholarly work that has been already done by others in field,
  • can be replicated/ reproduced,
  • is generalization to other settings,
  • is based on some logical rationale and tied to other existing theory;
  • is doable can be done practically, i.e when deciding the scope of research, a researcher should consider availability of time and resources,
  • generates some new questions,
  • is incremental,
  • is an apolitical (politically neutral) activity that should be undertaken for the betterment of society.

Two Types/Purposes of Research

Typically, there are two types/purposes of research: Basic Research and Applied Research

  1. To find out about truths regarding human behaviors, societies, economy, etc., or to understand them better. This type is called a basic research.
  2. To answer practical questions and support making informed decisions. This type called applied research.

Note that, most of the public administration and public policy research projects are of the second kind.

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