Understanding the Brain


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Olin Levi Warner, Research holding the torch of knowledge (1896). Library of Congress Thomas Jefferson Building, Washington, D.C.

Research can be defined as the search for knowledge, or as any systematic investigation, with an open mind, to establish novel facts, solve new or existing problems, prove new ideas, or develop new theories, usually using a scientific method. The primary purpose for basic research (as opposed to applied research) is discovering, interpreting, and the development of methods and systems for the advancement of human knowledge on a wide variety of scientific matters of our world and the universe.

Scientific research relies on the application of the scientific method, a harnessing of curiosity. This research provides scientific information and theories for the explanation of the nature and the properties of the world around us. It makes practical applications possible. Scientific research is funded by public authorities, by charitable organizations and by private groups, including many companies. Scientific research can be subdivided into different classifications according to their academic and application disciplines.

Artistic research, also seen as 'practice-based research', can take form when creative works are considered both the research and the object of research itself. It is the debatable body of thought which offers an alternative to purely scientific methods in research in its search for knowledge and truth.

Historical research is embodied in the historical method.

The phrase my research is also used loosely to describe a person's entire collection of information about a particular subject.


The word research is derived from the French recherche, from rechercher, to search closely where "chercher" means "to look for" or "to search".

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:

  1. Observations and Formation of the topic
  2. Hypothesis
  3. Conceptual definitions
  4. Operational definition
  5. Gathering of data
  6. Analysis of data
  7. Test, revising of hypothesis
  8. Conclusion, reiteration if necessary

A common misunderstanding is that by this method a hypothesis could 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 rather only supported by surviving rounds of scientific testing and, eventually, becoming widely thought of as true. A useful hypothesis allows prediction and within the accuracy of observation of the time, the prediction will be verified. As the accuracy of observation improves with time, the hypothesis may no longer provide an accurate prediction. In this case a new hypothesis will arise to challenge the old, and to the extent that the new hypothesis makes more accurate predictions than the old, the new will supplant it.

Artistic research

One of the characteristics of artistic research is that it must accept subjectivity as opposed to the classical scientific methods. As such, it is similar to the social sciences in using qualitative research and intersubjectivity as tools to apply measurement and critical analysis.[citation needed]

Historical method

The historical method comprises the techniques and guidelines by which historians use historical sources and other evidence to research and then to write history. There are various history guidelines commonly used by historians in their work, under the headings of external criticism, internal criticism, and synthesis. This includes lower criticism and sensual criticism. Though items may vary depending on the subject matter and researcher, the following concepts are usually part of most formal historical research:

Research methods

The goal of the research process is to produce new knowledge. This process takes three main forms (although, as previously discussed, the boundaries between them may be obscure.):

The research room at the New York Public Library, an example of secondary research in progress.

Research can also fall into two distinct types:

In social sciences and later in other disciplines, the following two research methods can be applied, depending on the properties of the subject matter and on the objective of the research:

  • Qualitative research (understanding of human behavior and the reasons that govern such behavior)
  • Quantitative research (systematic empirical investigation of quantitative properties and phenomena and their relationships)

Research is often conducted using the hourglass model Structure of Research.[1] The hourglass model starts with a broad spectrum for research, focusing in on the required information through the methodology of the project (like the neck of the hourglass), then expands the research in the form of discussion and results.


Academic publishing describes a system that is necessary in order for academic scholars to peer review the work and make it available for a wider audience. The 'system', which is probably disorganized enough not to merit the title, varies widely by field, and is also always changing, if often slowly. Most academic work is published in journal article or book form. In publishing, STM publishing is an abbreviation for academic publications in science, technology, and medicine.

Most established academic fields have their own journals and other outlets for publication, though many academic journals are somewhat interdisciplinary, and publish work from several distinct fields or subfields. The kinds of publications that are accepted as contributions of knowledge or research vary greatly between fields; from the print to the electronic format. Business models are different in the electronic environment. Since about the early 1990s, licensing of electronic resources, particularly journals, has been very common. Presently, a major trend, particularly with respect to scholarly journals, is open access. There are two main forms of open access: open access publishing, in which the articles or the whole journal is freely available from the time of publication, and self-archiving, where the author makes a copy of their own work freely available on the web.

Research funding

Most funding for scientific research comes from two major sources: Corporate research and development departments; and government research councils such as the National Institutes of Health in the USA[2] and the Medical Research Council in the UK. These are managed primarily through universities and in some cases through military contractors. Many senior researchers (such as group leaders) spend a significant amount of their time applying for grants for research funds. These grants are necessary not only for researchers to carry out their research, but also as a source of merit.

See also


  1. Trochim, W.M.K, (2006). Research Methods Knowledge Base.
  2. "US Scientific Grant Awards Database". http://search.engrant.com/. 

Further reading

  • Freshwater, D., Sherwood, G. & Drury, V. (2006) International research collaboration. Issues, benefits and challenges of the global network. Journal of Research in Nursing, 11 (4), pp 9295–303.ar:بحث علمي

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