What is research? Why do we conduct it?
Research is an 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 of the elements of theory is:
The 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 may be used in two ways.
- The results may contribute to researchers’ general understanding of the topic they have researched i.e. studied and may contribute to, understanding how the
economyworks, 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 in the generalpublic to advance society for the understanding of the topic.
- 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 that builds blocks of knowledge that in turn contribute to the development of science.
Why conduct research?
- To understand a phenomenon, situation, or behavior under study.
- To test existing theories and to develop new theories on the basis of existing ones.
- 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.
Therefore, a high-quality research project
- is based on the scholarly work that has been already done by others in the field,
- can be replicated/ reproduced,
- is a 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 the
availabilityof 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
Typically, there are two types/purposes: Basic Research and Applied Research
- To find out about truths regarding human behaviors, societies, economy, etc., or to understand them better. This type is called basic research.
- 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.