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Unit 1: Concept of Research
Basic Research Notes
Basic research (also called fundamental or pure research) has as its primary objective the
advancement of knowledge and the theoretical understanding of the relations among variables.
It is exploratory and often driven by the researcher’s curiosity, interest, and intuition. Therefore,
it is sometimes conducted without any practical end in mind, although it may have confounding
variables (unexpected results) pointing to practical applications. The terms “basic” or “fundamental”
indicate that, through theory generation, basic research provides the foundation for further,
sometimes applied research. As there is no guarantee of short-term practical gain, researchers
may find it difficult to obtain funding for basic research.
Examples of questions asked in basic research:
• Does string theory provide physics with a grand unification theory?
• Which aspects of genomes explain organismal complexity?
• Is it possible to prove or disprove Goldbach’s conjecture? (i.e., that every even integer
greater than 2 can be written as the sum of two, not necessarily distinct primes)
Traditionally, basic research was considered as an activity that preceded applied research,
which in turn preceded development into practical applications. Recently, these distinctions
have become much less clear-cut, and it is sometimes the case that all stages will intermix.
This is particularly the case in fields such as biotechnology and electronics, where fundamental
discoveries may be made alongside work intended to develop new products, and in areas
where public and private sector partners collaborate in order to develop greater insight into
key areas of interest. For this reason, some now prefer the term frontier research.
Research Processes
Scientific Research
Generally, research is understood to follow a certain structural process. Though step order
may vary depending on the subject matter and researcher, the following steps are usually part
of most formal research, both basic and applied:
• Formation of the topic
• Hypothesis
• Conceptual definitions
• Operational definitions
• Gathering of data
• Analysis of data
• Test, revising of hypothesis
• Conclusion, iteration if necessary
A common misunderstanding is that by this method a hypothesis can be proven or tested.
Generally a hypothesis is used to make predictions that can be tested by observing the outcome
of an experiment. If the outcome is inconsistent with the hypothesis, then the hypothesis is
rejected. However, if the outcome is consistent with the hypothesis, the experiment is said to
support the hypothesis.
This careful language is used because researchers recognize that alternative hypotheses may
also be consistent with the observations. In this sense, a hypothesis can never be proven, but
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