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What is Research?

by Meghan Kowalski on 2021-02-22T09:00:00-05:00 | Comments

Research is a process by which we explore, investigate, and gather information to either find new discoveries or analyze existing ideas. It is a process of systematic inquiry where we ask questions and seek to find the answers to those queries. Research can include reviewing and analyzing existing information or collecting data to find or create new information.

The parts of the research process can vary depending on the type of research, area of inquiry, or kind of study. The kind of research necessary for a scientific or medical study looks a lot different than the research you need to do to write an English essay or create a podcast. While the particular "look" of the research may be different, the idea of research is the same across all areas of study. Research most often includes the following steps:

  • Identifying the need for information
  • Creating a research question, query, or area for exploration
  • Determining the type and amount of information needed
  • Conducting or creating searches for information 
  • Evaluating and assessing the found information
  • Using existing information and creating new information to fulfill a purpose
  • Citing existing information
  • Creating new material or information
  • Sharing your created material

Research is not a straightforward, linear process. There is no following step 1 to step 2 to step 3. Research evolves, changes, backtracks, and jumps forward the more you work on your identified question or query. In fact, research looks more like a squiggly, jumbled piece of string than a straightforward or progressing line.

Every person develops their own way to research. Your research workflow will look different from your classmates. It will definitely look different than someone who studies a topic opposite your research area. And that's okay! The more you conduct research, the more comfortable you will be. As you develop your skills and get used to searching for information, you will develop your own workflow. That workflow will change depending on what you are looking for and what you want to do with the information you find. No two research workflows are alike because no two research queries are the same.

Research is something that you always do. Yes, your academic assignments may have deadlines, but you will never stop researching. When you select a major to study in college, many of your courses and their concepts will overlap. That means, when you learn something in one course you might come across it again in another course. When you research for assignments, you will encounter information and learn skills that you can use at a later date. 

You also research in your personal life. Say you want to buy new shoes. First, you'll need an idea of what to buy. You might need shoes for a fancy event or for running. The purpose of the shoe will determine what you're looking for. Next, you'll start looking for shoes - you might try looking on Amazon or DSW or Zappos... or all three! You'll narrow down the inventory by style, size, color, and/or price. When you find some shoes you like, you'll look at pictures, read reviews and comments, you might even buy a few pairs to try on before keeping the ones you like best. This is research. It doesn't look exactly like how you research a class paper, but the skills and ideas behind it are the same.

You'll always have something to research and, the more you do it, the better you'll get at it.


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