Research – definition of research

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Definition of research

‘Research is a systematic process of discovery and advancement of human knowledge’ (Gratton & Jones, 2009, p.4). According to Theodorson and Theodorson (1969) research refers to any honest attempt to study a problem systematically or to add to man’s knowledge of a problem.

Based on the definitions above, there are few characteristics of research. Firstly, research is a systematic (stage by stage) process. Researchers must follow an appropriate process in order to conduct research which is valid. Secondly, any research is to study a problem. What is the point of doing research if a problem does not exist? In other words, there is no basis for research unless there is a problem.

Research problems

Researchers can conduct research based on any problem they have interest  in. For example, Tesco lost its market share in the last few years. Tesco losing its market share is a problem which a researcher may be interested in to investigate to find out the potential reasons. However, research must have some significance in order to generate interest for wider audience.

Why research?

There are a number reasons to conduct research. For example, it can help the researcher investigate some existing situation or problem (Hussey and Hussey, 1997). Fundamentally, research is to provide solutions to a problem. The results of research may include but not limited to new knowledge, and better insights into a problem which is otherwise would not have been possible.

Types of research

Research has different types. For example, primary research, secondary research, exploratory research, descriptive research, explanatory research, predictive research, quantitative research and qualitative research. Discussion on all these types of research is beyond the scope of this article. Therefore, this article will provide more information on primary and secondary research only.

Primary research

Primary research is also called field research. According to Gratton & Jones (2009) primary research refers to research that has involved the collection of original data specific to a particular research project, for example through using research methods such as questionnaires or interviews.

Secondary research

Secondary research is also called desk research. In this type of research, the researcher will not collect any primary data and will rely on existing sources of data. Marketing research reports, census, company websites, news reports, magazine articles are some of the sources of secondary data. Secondary research is usually carried out at home or library with the help of both the Internet and printed materials.

In a nutshell, research is very important and may sometimes be complex from both conceptual and practical perspectives. Therefore, researchers must be very familiar with the definition of research and other  important research issues such as research process, research methods, research approach, and research design.

The article publication date: 01 November 2016

Further reading/references

Gratton, C. & Jones, I. (2009) Research Methods for Sports Studies, 2nd edition, London: Routledge

Saunders, M., Lewis, P., & Thornhill, A. (2007) Research Methods for Business Students, 4th edition, UK: Pearson Education Limited

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Author: M Rahman

M Rahman writes extensively online with an emphasis on business management, marketing, and tourism. He is a lecturer in Management and Marketing. He is a graduate of Leeds Metropolitan University and London South Bank University.