Frank Rennie & Keith Smyth

Chapter 1 – What is research and why do it?

All the content relating to the chapter above is below

In our first Chapter of How to Write a Research dissertation, we start by exploring the fundamental question ‘What is research?’. We introduce the idea of academic research as structured investigation that has the aim of furthering our knowledge of a particular topic or subject, before defining different types of research and introducing important practical considerations. Chapter 1 also introduces the first of a series of practical activities we recommend you undertake as you work through each chapter, and which are designed to help support you in your own research project.

So, what is research? To me, research is in a sense… it’s out of curiousity as people are enquiring and asking about the world round about us, and about the things that go on, and the things that people do. But it’s much more than that, it’s that condensed, or worked into a systematic enquiry, and to do that, we investigate hypotheses, we perhaps look at new interpretations for information or data that’s already there. We might ask new questions, either from that, or from what we’re doing, that would be for other research or for further research, or for other researchers to go on to explore. So I think that in a sense briefly for me, heads up what’s going on when we talk about research. It consists of asking a question, usually, in fact if it doesn’t consist of asking a question, there’s something wrong. It’s hopefully a question that nobody’s asked before, or a slight variation on a question that somebody’s asked before, but we want to go on and explore in a different way, and that could be leading on from previous research. It involves doing the necessary work to find out an answer, or to find out information or data to inform an answer. As well as that, beyond that, there’s the way which we communicate that answer or communicate the knowledge that we’ve discovered or the knowledge that we’ve acquired to a wider audience, which may be an audience of peers in the professional research community, or it could be beyond that into the general community at large – that’s the process, contributing to society in general.

Quique Bassat – Assistant Research Professor, Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal-UB) -Barcelona

Pediatrician (Graduated in 2004 from Hospital Vall d’Hebrón of Barcelona), specialized in tropical medicine (Master in Tropical medicine and international health, Barcelona university, 2004) and epidemiology (Master in epidemiology, London School of tropical medicine and higiene, London 2007-08). Large experience in clinical trials in developing countries, having participated in different trials of the antimalarial RTS,S vaccines in Mozambique, and having managed different antimalarial treatments trials in the same country, as well as various clinical-epidiomological studies in the malaria field in particular and in infectious diseases in general. Based more than three years in Manhiça, Mozambique. Currently working at CRESIB, the research centre of the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) where he coordinates the implementation of projects related to malaria in countries as Mozambique, Brasil, India or Papúa New Guinea.

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)

th chap1 video TEDx - Tedx – Six reasons why research is cool

Section Overview

This section discusses what we mean by ‘research’ and how we distinguish it from other forms of enquiry. The idea of research as a process is presented and we consider how research may be evaluated.

Section Learning Outcomes

By the end of this section, students should be able to:

  • define what is meant by the term research
  • draw a simple diagram of the research process
  • identify and define the key stages of the generalised research process

Go to resource

chap1 res SOAS - Online module - Introduction to research (Unit 1)

This helpsheet outlines the nature of research as it is generally understood in the Business School.

Of course, research can be understood in different ways in different disciplines. This helpsheet, therefore, should not be seen as a guide to research in all of its possible forms.

PDF, 9 pages, University of Sydney worksheet.

Use this sheet to help you:

  • understand concepts that are central to research as conducted in the Faculty
  • improve your ability to conduct effective research

Go to resource

chap1 sydney - Helpsheet - What is research?

Coverall – intro, design, data, presenting… An online handbook produced by the University of Surrey to give students an introduction to research.

A link to an extensive set of notes from the University of Surrey dealing with the whole process of documenting research. It starts with a consideration of why we do research, works through a range of planning issues that need to be considered, and concludes with a section on how research result might be utilised. Contains some embedded links.

The contents are well-defined and easy to read, in short, informative sub-sections. Not all of the sections will be appropriate to every research project, so students will need to use their own judegement, but taken as a whole, the document gives a good overview of the kinds of issues which students need to consider when preparing a research dissertation.

Go to resource

university of surrey importance pilot studies - Introduction to research - handbook

A set of short dissertation writing videos from Massey University with resources for students.

These are helpfully broken-up into separate tasks, such as preparing a proposal, writing a report, editing, and so on. Each video clip gives a general overview and some guidance for students to help manage the selected task.

Go to resource

massey university dissertation videos - Dissertation videos from Massey University

This links to an assemblage of video clips relating to various aspects of research and the preparation of research reports.

Individual videos deal with different forms of research, evaluation, and project planning. The clips range from 30 minutes to an hour each, so you may wish to watch them in stages, or allow time to watch, pause, and take notes. Different videos will be appropriate to different subject matter, so you may want to discuss your initial options with your supervisor before you invest time learning a research method which is not suitable for the topic of your study.

Go to resource

Educational Videos YouTube - Research and the preparation of research reports (by Dr Sam Fiala)

Practical Research: Planning and Design

PDF (11 pages)[Pearson]

Reproduction of Chapter 1 What is Research? from Paul D. Leedy and Jeanne Ellis Ormrod (2010) Practical Research: Planning and Design (9th edition). Published by Pearson and available via Boston College. This chapter presents a detailed overview of what research is, with practical guidance and a useful checklist for evaluating the research of others.

Go to resource

boston college research 150x150 - What Is Research?