The word research is used in everyday speech to cover a broad spectrum of meaning, which makes it a decidedly confusing term for students -- especially graduate students -- who must learn to use the word in its specialized denotation. Much that students have learned they must suddenly unlearn; many of the false concepts they had previously learned they must discard.
Unfortunately, many students have been taught misconceptions about the nature of research. From elementary school to college, they have heard the word research used loosely and given multiple, misleading meanings. On one hand, the word connotes the finding of an item of information or the making of notes and the writing of a documented paper. On the other hand, it is used for the act of informing oneself about what one does not know or of rummaging through available sources to retrieve a bit of information. Merchandisers use the word to suggest the discovery of a revolutionary product when, often, the truth is that only a minor alteration has been made to an existing product, with the purpose of enhancing the product's sales appeal. All these activities have been called research but should have been called by their appropriate names: information gathering, library skills, documentation, self-enlightenment, and an attention-getting sales pitch.
The word research has a certain mystique about it. It suggests to many people an activity that is exclusive and removed from everyday life. Researchers are sometimes regarded as esoteric individuals who seclude themselves in laboratories, in scholarly libraries, or within the precincts of an academic environment. The public generally is not aware of their daily activity or of the important contributions their work frequently makes to people's comfort and general welfare. Many people, therefore, regard research as a way of life dissociated from the common activities of the everyday world.
The purpose of this chapter is to dispel these myths and misconceptions and to present an accurate definition of research. I define research here as the systematic process of collecting and analyzing information (data) in order to increase our understanding of the phenomenon with which we are concerned or interested. Although this conception of research may seem somewhat remote and academic, many people rely on a truncated form of it each day to solve smaller problems than those resolved by the more elaborate methodology of formal research. It is with formal research, however, that we are concerned in this text.
To appreciate the difference between people's common understanding of research and the more accurate definition, we can perhaps better understand the latter by first looking at the nature of the former.
Research Paper Writing