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Published by at May 5th, 2023 , Revised On June 28, 2024

What is Academic Research? – Definition, Types & Steps

The phrases “according to a new research study” or “research demonstrates” are commonplace, but have you ever pondered their significance? 

The importance of academic research cannot be overlooked since it is mentioned frequently in all aspects of life. What is academic research, and why is it essential? 

Research exists in various shapes and locations and impacts most aspects of our lives, whether we recognise it or not, from the technology we employ to the medicine we ingest. Thus, research is indispensable for advancement. 

Let’s now explore the definition of research, its objectives and characteristics, how it is conducted, and why it should matter to you.

Definition and Meaning of Academic Research 

“Academic research refers to a systematic and rigorous inquiry conducted by scholars, researchers, or experts in a particular field of study to expand the existing knowledge, validate or challenge theories, and develop new ones.” 

It involves collecting and analysing data and information using established methods, tools, and techniques to address research questions or hypotheses. 

The main goal of academic research is to advance knowledge and understanding in a specific discipline, such as science, social sciences, humanities, or arts. 

Academic research is usually conducted in universities, research institutions, or other academic settings and is often published in scholarly journals, books, or conferences.

Objectives of Academic Research

Academic research aims to generate new knowledge and has practical significance by addressing problems that can contribute to the betterment of society.

Academic research involves unravelling a mystery to understand how or why something functions or occurs while ensuring it is 100% free of research bias. In essence, it involves finding answers to questions that academics and professionals have about the world, and this constitutes a fundamental reason for engaging in research.

The research process does not end after the problem has been resolved. Academic research must be communicated, typically through an academic paper, and if the paper meets high-quality standards, it may be published in professional journals.

Characteristics of Academic Research

Academic research involves more than simply selecting a topic, gathering data, and presenting it in written form. For research to be deemed high-quality, it must meet specific standards to ensure its excellence. Some key features of good research include the following:

  • The research must be closely tied to its research question, which is the most crucial element. When formulating a research question, it is advisable to use the FINER criteria (Feasible, Interesting, Novelty, Ethical, and Relevant).
  • All research should follow a systematic and appropriate methodology.
  • Acknowledgment of previous research is critical for the development of new knowledge. You can understand the study’s direction by referring to articles, journals, and past investigations.
  • The criteria of good research include that it is representative and generalisable. This pertains to the sample’s capacity to represent a larger group with minimal variation.
  • External research validation is a significant distinguishing factor, as it provides recognition to the investigation for future studies.

Also read: What is grey literature

What is the Importance of Academic Research?

Academic research is crucial in advancing knowledge, understanding, and innovation in various fields of study. Here are some of the key reasons why academic research is essential:

  1. Expanding Knowledge: Academic research helps to expand the existing body of knowledge in various fields of study, including science, social sciences, humanities, and the arts.
  2. Validating or Challenging Theories: Academic research enables scholars to validate or challenge existing theories, concepts, and practices and to develop new ones based on empirical evidence.
  3. Problem-Solving: Academic research addresses real-world problems and challenges, contributing to developing practical solutions that improve people’s lives and society.
  4. Innovation: Academic research is a vital source of innovation, leading to new products, services, and technologies that can drive economic growth and social progress.
  5. Education: Academic research supports teaching and learning, as it provides up-to-date information, new ideas, and fresh perspectives that enrich the educational experience.
  6. Career Advancement: Academic research can lead to career advancement and recognition for scholars, as publications in academic journals and other forms of dissemination are often used to measure professional achievement.

Academic research is crucial to advancing knowledge, understanding, and innovation, and it is essential for the progress and well-being of society.

Also read – What is Grey Literature in Academic Research

Types and Methods of Academic Research 

Academic research can be broadly classified into two main types:

  1. Quantitative research focuses on using numerical data and statistical analysis to understand and explain phenomena. It involves collecting data through structured surveys, experiments, or observations and analysing it using statistical tools and techniques.
  2. Qualitative research explores and understands social phenomena by collecting and analysing non-numerical data, such as interviews, focus groups, and case studies. It aims to uncover individuals’ and groups’ underlying meanings and subjective experiences.

Within these two main types of research, there are several subtypes of academic research, such as:

  1. Experimental research: In this type of research, researchers manipulate variables and measure the effects to establish cause-and-effect relationships.
  2. Descriptive research: This type of research aims to describe the characteristics of a phenomenon or population.
  3. Correlational research: In this type of research, researchers examine the relationship between two or more variables.
  4. Case study research: This type of research focuses on the in-depth study of a single case or a small number of cases.
  5. Action research: This type of research involves collaboration between researchers and practitioners to identify and address problems in real-world settings.

The choice of research type and subtype depends on the research question, the nature of the phenomenon under study, and the research methodology.

How to Use Academic Research Used in Practice?

We have already discussed how academic research can bring about progress and change in various fields, such as healthcare, education, and technology. 

Academic research enables healthcare providers to use evidence-based techniques to treat patients, while in education, it can be used to teach concepts and principles. 

Furthermore, research in a particular field of interest is essential in demonstrating its continual progression. In technology, research studies are used to improve equipment and systems. 

By asking the right questions and studying them thoroughly, academic research can significantly impact and bring life-changing results for those involved in the industry.

How to Structure Academic Research

Academic research papers usually follow a specific sequence, which includes Abstract, Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion, References, Tables & Figures, and Appendices.

The Abstract section of a research paper is essential, as it briefly summarises the entire study in one paragraph. It is usually limited to 250 words and helps readers decide whether to read further.

Researchers use various referencing styles, and one commonly used style in the UK is Harvard referencing. This style includes in-text citations and reference lists, which allow readers to locate the original text easily. Most university websites have a guide to Harvard referencing that you can refer to for assistance.

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Steps of Conducting Academic Research 

The steps of conducting academic research can vary depending on the field and nature of the study but generally include the following:

Identify a research question

Determine the purpose and focus of the research, and develop a clear research question that can be investigated.

Review existing literature

Conduct a thorough review of existing research and literature related to the topic to identify gaps in knowledge and potential research areas.

Develop a research plan

Decide on the research design, methodology, data collection methods, and analysis techniques that will be used to investigate the research question.

Collect data

Carry out data collection activities in accordance with the research plan, which may involve conducting surveys, interviews, experiments, or other methods.

Analyse data

Analyse and interpret the data collected to draw conclusions and make findings related to the research question.

Write up findings

Communicate the research findings in a written report or paper, including an introduction, methods, results, discussion sections, references, and supplementary materials.

Peer review and publication

Submit the research for peer review and publication in a relevant academic journal or other outlet, where it can be reviewed and validated by other experts in the field.

Present findings

Share the research findings with others through presentations at conferences, seminars, or other professional settings, to disseminate the knowledge and contribute to the ongoing dialogue in the field.

Difference Between Academic Research & Professional Research 

Academic research and professional research share many similarities, but there are some key differences between them.

Academic ResearchProfessional Research
Scholars and researchers in universities, colleges, and other institutions typically conduct academic research. It is focused on advancing knowledge and contributing to the academic community’s understanding of a particular topic or subject. Academic research is often published in academic journals or presented at academic conferences, and it is usually peer-reviewed by other experts in the field.Academic research is primarily aimed at scholars and researchers in a particular field.Professional research, on the other hand, is typically conducted by practitioners and professionals in various fields, such as business, healthcare, engineering, and social work. Professional research often aims to solve practical problems and improve practices within a particular profession or industry. Consulting firms often conduct professional research, think tanks, and other organisations, which may be published in professional or trade journals.Professional research is aimed at practitioners and professionals in a particular industry or profession.
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What is a Research Paradigm?

A research paradigm is a set of assumptions, beliefs, and practices guiding researchers’ approach. It includes the researcher’s worldview, theoretical framework, and research methodology. 

The paradigm shapes the researcher’s views of the world and influences how they define and approach research questions, collect and analyse data, and interpret their findings. 

Examples of research paradigms include positivism, interpretivism, critical theory, constructivism, and pragmatism. Each of these paradigms has different assumptions about the nature of reality, the role of the researcher, and the methods used to conduct research.

Academic Research Ideas

After identifying a problem and finding a gap, academic research explores a unique idea. A researcher must select an appropriate title or topic for their research before starting. 

The depth and complexity of the chosen topic depend on a range of factors, including the researcher’s academic level and subject. 

Our free research topics database lets you find interesting and unique ideas for all study areas. 

How to Access Academic Research?

Accessing academic research typically involves the following steps:

Check with your local library 

Many libraries have subscriptions to academic databases and journals, and they may provide access to these resources to library cardholders.

Check with academic institutions 

If you are a student or faculty member at a university, you likely have access to the institution’s library and its online resources.

Use academic search engines

Many academic search engines, such as Google Scholar, allow you to search for academic articles and papers.

Contact the author

If you encounter an article or paper you cannot access, contact the author directly to request a copy.

Look for open-access resources

Many academic journals and databases now offer open-access options, meaning the content is freely available to anyone.

Attend conferences or seminars

Attending academic conferences or seminars can give you access to the latest research in your field and the opportunity to network with other researchers.

It is important to note that accessing academic research can sometimes be costly, and access may be restricted to those with paid subscriptions or memberships. However, many resources are available for free or at a lower cost, and it is always worth checking with your local library or academic institution to see what options are available to you.

Frequently Asked Questions

An academic researcher is a professional who conducts systematic and rigorous investigations to discover new knowledge or insights in their field of study.

They work in academic institutions such as universities, research institutes, and think tanks and publish their findings in scholarly publications such as academic journals, books, and conference proceedings.

What does peer-reviewed mean in academic research? Peer-reviewed means that a scholarly work, such as an academic article, has been evaluated and scrutinised by other experts in the same field before it is published.

This process ensures the quality, validity, and reliability of the research. Peer review is a crucial aspect of academic publishing and promotes high standards of scholarship.

About Owen Ingram

Avatar for Owen IngramIngram is a dissertation specialist. He has a master's degree in data sciences. His research work aims to compare the various types of research methods used among academicians and researchers.