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Module 2: Identifying a Topic

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2.1 Definition of Research

re·search: NOUN: 1. a detailed study of a subject, especially in order to discover (new) information or reach a (new) understanding.

Cambridge Dictionaries Online,
© Cambridge University Press 2003.

The word "research" is used to describe a number of similar and often overlapping activities involving a search for information. For example, each of the following activities involves such a search; but the differences are significant and worth examining.

Research type Essential characteristics
  1. Find the population of each country in Africa or the total (in dollars) of Japanese investment in the U.S. in 2002.
A search for individual facts or data. May be part of the search for a solution to a larger problem or simply the answer to a friendly, or not so friendly, bar bet! Concerned with facts rather than knowledge or analysis and answers can normally be found in a single source.
  1. Find out what is known generally about a fairly specific topic. "What is the history of the Internet?"
A report or review, not designed to create new information or insight but to collate and synthesize existing information. A summary of the past. Answers can typically be found in a selection of books, articles, and Web sites.
[Note: gathering this information may often include activities like #1 above.]
  1. Gather evidence to determine whether gang violence is directly related to playing violent video games.
Gathering and analyzing a body of information or data and extracting new meaning from it or developing unique solutions to problems or cases. This is "real" research and requires an open-ended question for which there is no ready answer.
[Note: this will always include #2 above and usually #1. It may also involve gathering new data through experiments, surveys, or other techniques.]
Module 2
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