The 15 Types of Scientific Research and their Characteristics

Some of the types of research scientific applied, basic, correlational, descriptive, ethnographic, experimental or exploratory research.

Research includes any creative work done on a systematic basis to improve knowledge, including knowledge of humans, culture and society; this information can then be used in new applications.

Researcher looking through microscope.  You may be looking for a cure for a serious illness.  This is one of the reasons for the importance of research.

Different types of research are used to establish or confirm facts, to assert results from previous work, to solve new or existing problems, to support theorems or to develop new theories. Depending on the goal and resources, the type of research will be decided.

The main purpose of the basic information is the documentation, discovery, interpretation or development of methods and systems for the advancement of human knowledge.

This contrasts, for example, with applied research, which involves the application of some science.

The different approaches to research depend on epistemologies, which vary considerably between the sciences and the humanities.

There are different forms of research, as well as methods to carry out such work.

List of 15 main types of scientific research

1- Applied Research

Applied research refers to study and scientific research that seeks to solve practical problems.

Applied information is used to find solutions to day-to-day problems, to cure illnesses, and to develop innovative technologies, instead of concentrating on acquiring knowledge by knowing that knowledge.

This type of research uses some parts of accumulated theories, knowledge, methods and techniques for specific purposes.

Usually uses empirical methodologies. As research is carried out in the real world, strict research protocols often need to be relaxed.

For example, applied research can investigate ways to:

  • Improve the production of an agricultural crop.
  • Treat or cure a specific disease.
  • Improve energy efficiency in homes, offices or modes of transportation.

2- Basic research

It is also known as fundamental research or pure research. It is an investigation driven by the curiosity or interest of a scientist in a scientific question.

The main motivation is to expand the knowledge of an individual, not create or invent something in particular. There is no obvious or commercial value to discoveries that result from basic research.

Basic scientific research can seek answers to questions such as:

  • How did the universe begin?
  • What are protons, neutrons and electrons made of?
  • How do mold strains reproduce?
  • What is the specific genetic code of fruit flies?

3- Correlation research

The correlational research refers to the systematic investigation or statistical study of relations between two or more variables, without necessarily determining a cause and an effect.

Mainly seeks to establish a relationship / association / correlation between two or more variables that do not lend themselves easily to experimental manipulation.

For example, to test the hypothesis of 'listening to music lowers blood pressure levels' one can conduct research in two ways:

  • Experimental: group the samples and have a group listen to music and then compare blood pressure levels.
  • Survey: Ask people how they feel and how often they listen to music and then compare.

This type of research has both advantages and disadvantages. Some advantages include:

  • Be able to collect more information from several subjects at the same time.
  • To be able to study a wide range of variables and their interrelationships.
  • Study variables that are not easily produced in the laboratory.

On the other hand, some disadvantages include:

  • Correlation does not indicate causality (cause and effect)
  • Problems with the method of self report.

4- Descriptive Research

Descriptive research refers to research that provides an accurate picture of the characteristics of a particular individual, a situation, or a group. Descriptive research is also known as statistical research.

These studies are a way of discovering new meanings by describing what exists, determining how often something happens, and categorizing information.

In short, descriptive research is concerned with everything that can be counted and studied, so it has an impact on the lives of people who relate to those elements.

An example may be finding the most common disease that affects the children of a city. The reader of the research will be able to know what to do to prevent this disease, thus making more people live a healthy life.

5- Ethnographic research

This research refers to the research of a culture through an in-depth study of the members of the culture; involves the systematic collection, description, and analysis of data for the development of theories on cultural behavior.

Ethnographic research studies people, ethnic groups and other ethnic formations, their composition, resettlement, characteristics of social welfare, as well as their material and spiritual culture.

The main purpose of this research is to try to understand what is happening naturally in the environment and interpret the information collected to see what implications could be formed from the date.

Data collection is often done through observation of participants, interviews, questionnaires, etc.

6- Experimental research

Experimental research is an objective, systematic and controlled research with the purpose of predicting and controlling the phenomena and examining the probability and causality between the selected variables.

The simplest experimental research includes two variables and two groups of participants:

  • The two variables (dependent variables versus independent variables) - the IV is the prediction variable, while DV is the outcome variable. Researchers manipulate and control IV to study its effect on DV.

The two groups of participants (control vs experimental):

  • Before starting the experiment, the researcher randomly assigns his / her sample to two different groups: the control group and the experimental group. The control group does not receive manipulation of the IV (without treatment), while the experimental group receives manipulation of IV.

Probably its greatest advantage is that it establishes cause and effect relationships. On the other hand, its disadvantages include that it is artificial, unethical and not viable.

7- Exploratory research

The exploratory research is performed for a problem that has not been clearly defined. Exploratory research helps determine the best research design, the best method of data collection, and the selection of subjects.

The results of exploratory research are usually not useful for making decisions for themselves, but they can give important insight into a given situation. Additionally, exploratory research is typically not generalizable to the general population.

This type of research can be quite informal, relying on secondary information such as literature review and available data; or qualitative approaches such as informal discussions with consumers, employees, managers or competitors, and more formal approaches through in-depth interviews, focus groups, case studies or pilot studies.

8- Investigation of grounded theory

The theory-based research is research designed to discover what problems exist in a given social environment and how the people involved handle them; involves the formulation, testing, and reformulation of propositions until a theory is developed.

Grounded theory is a type of research that operates almost in a reverse fashion to traditional research and may at first seem to contradict the scientific method .

This research has four stages:

  • Codes - Identify the anchors that allow the key points of the data to be collected.
  • Concepts - Collections of codes of similar content that allow the data to be grouped.
  • Categories- Broad groups of similar concepts that are used to generate a theory
  • Theory - A collection of explanations that explain the subject of the investigation (hypothesis)

9- Historical Research

Historical research is a type of research that involves the analysis of events that have occurred in the remote or recent past. This type of research provides a better context for social scientists to make realistic decisions.

Applying this research can show patterns that happened in the past and over time can help us to find out where we came from and what kind of solutions we have used in the past.

Understand that this can add perspective on how we examine current events and educational practices.

The steps involved in conducting a historical research are:

  • The identification of the research topic and the formulation of the research problem or question.
  • The collection of information or literature review.
  • Evaluation of materials.
  • The synthesis of information.
  • The preparation of the report or the preparation of the narrative exposition.

Some advantages include providing a comprehensive picture of historical trends, using existing information and providing evidence of current trends and problems.

On the other hand, some limitations are: it takes a lot of time, resources can have conflicts and they can be difficult to locate, sometimes the cause of the problem can not be identified, the data is restricted to what already exists, and the information may be incomplete, obsolete, unfinished, or inadequate.

10- Investigation phenomenological

This descriptive and inductive research is developed from phenomenological philosophy; its purpose is to describe an experience as it is experienced by a person. This branch is concerned with the study of experience from the perspective of the individual.

These investigations are based on a paradigm of personal knowledge and subjectivity, as well as an emphasis on the importance of personal perspective and interpretation.

For that reason, they are powerful to understand the subjective experience, to gain knowledge of the motivations and actions of the people and to cut off the assumptions that are taken for granted.

11- Fundamental research

This research seeks to solve a problem by adding to the field of application of a discipline.

Often several disciplines work together to solve a particular problem. These investigations are often compiled in common language and not in a scientific or technical language.

Investigators usually investigate individual cases without the purpose of generalizing. This study seeks to show how things can be changed and recognize that other variables are constantly changing.

12- Qualitative research

From a broad perspective, all research can be classified into two groups: qualitative or quantitative . Qualitative research deals with phenomena that are difficult or impossible to quantify mathematically, such as beliefs, meanings, attributes and symbols.

Qualitative researchers seek to gather a deep understanding of human behavior and the reasons that govern such behaviors.

Qualitative methods investigate the why and the how of decision-making, not just what, where, and when.

13- Quantitative research

Quantitative research refers to the systematic and empirical investigations of any phenomenon via statistical techniques, mathematics or computational.

The objective of this research is to develop and use mathematical models, theories and / or hypotheses related to phenomena.

This research generally uses scientific methods such as the generation of models, theories and hypotheses, the development of instruments and methods of measurement, manipulation of variables and experimental control, the evaluation of results and the collection of empirical data.

14- Observational research

Observational studies draw interference from a sample to a population where the independent variable is not under the control of the researcher due to logical constraints or ethical concerns.

A common observational research can be performed on the possible effect of a treatment on subjects, where the assignment of subjects in a treated group contrasts with a control group that is beyond the control of the investigator.

This contrasts with experimental studies, where each subject is randomly assigned to a control group or to a treatment group.

15- Confirmatory Investigation

This research proves a hypothesis a priori- predictions of results that are made before the measurement phase begins. Such hypotheses are usually derived from a theory with the results of previous studies.

The advantage of confirmatory research is that the result is more important in the sense that it is much more difficult to state that a certain result is generalizable beyond the set of data.

The reason for this is that in a confirmatory investigation, the investigator ideally tries to reduce the likelihood of falsely reporting a co incidental result as significant.


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  6. Applied research. Retrieved from

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