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Types of research (and characteristics)


Throughout history, science has achieved impressive things that have improved our understanding of the universe and the level of life and well-being we can achieve.

However, the milestones achieved have not appeared out of nowhere. They have required years of research in very different fields, and there are a lot of ways to investigate, which can be organized according to different criteria. In this article you can find 15 types of research and their basic characteristics .

The investigation

Investigating means carrying out different actions or strategies in order to discover something. Thus, these acts are aimed at obtaining and applying new knowledge , explaining a certain reality or obtaining ways to resolve issues and situations of interest. Research is the basis of scientific knowledge, although not all research is scientific in itself. 

For a knowledge to be scientific, it is necessary that the research carried out be carried out systematically, with clear objectives and based on aspects that can be verified and replicated. The results obtained must be analyzed objectively and taking into account the various variables that may be affecting the phenomenon studied.

As we have said, you can investigate from very different perspectives, with different objectives or taking into account different types of data, procedures or methods to obtain them. Here are some of these types of research.

Types of research according to its objective

We can find two types of research depending on the purpose for which they are carried out.

1. Pure or theoretical research

This type of research has as main objective the obtaining of knowledge of different kinds, without taking into account the applicability of the knowledge obtained . Thanks to the body of knowledge extracted from it, other types of investigations can be established, or not.

For example, research in pure mathematics, it is normal not to worry about the ease with which the conclusions obtained can be applied.

2. Applied research

This is a type of research focused on finding mechanisms or strategies that allow achieving a specific objective , such as curing a disease or achieving an element or that may be useful. Therefore, the type of scope to which it applies is very specific and well defined, since it is not about explaining a wide variety of situations, but rather trying to address a specific problem.

According to the level of deepening in the object of study

Research can be carried out in different ways and deepening more or less on how they are or why things are. In this sense we find the following types of research.

3. Exploratory research

This type of research focuses on analyzing and investigating specific aspects of reality that have not yet been analyzed in depth. Basically it is an exploration or first approach that allows subsequent investigations to be directed to an analysis of the subject matter. 

Due to its characteristics, this type of research does not start from very detailed theories, but tries to find significant patterns in the data that must be analyzed in order to, from these results, create the first complete explanations about what is happening.

4. Descriptive

The objective of this type of research is only to establish a description as complete as possible of a specific phenomenon , situation or element, without looking for causes or consequences of it. Measure the characteristics and observe the configuration and processes that make up the phenomena, without stopping to value them.

Thus, on many occasions this type of investigation does not even ask about the causality of the phenomena (that is, why “what happens is observed”). Simply, it is about obtaining an enlightening image of the state of the situation.

5. Explanatory

It is one of the most frequent types of research and on which science focuses. It is the type of research that is used in order to try to determine the causes and consequences of a particular phenomenon. It seeks not only what but why things, and how they have reached the state in question.

Different methods can be used for this, such as the observational, correlational or experimental method. The objective is to create explanatory models in which cause-effect sequences can be observed, although these do not have to be linear (normally, they are very complex causation mechanisms, with many variables at play).

Depending on the type of data used

Another way to classify the different types of research is according to the type of data they collect. In this sense we can find the following types.

6. Qualitative

Qualitative research is understood to be one that is based on obtaining data in principle that cannot be quantified , based on observation. Although it offers a lot of information, the data obtained are subjective and poorly controllable and do not allow a clear explanation of the phenomena. It focuses on descriptive aspects.

However, the data obtained from these investigations can be subsequently operationalized in order to be analyzed, making the explanation about the phenomenon studied more complete.

7. Quantitative

Quantitative research is based on the study and analysis of reality through different measurement-based procedures . It allows a higher level of control and inference than other types of research, being possible to carry out experiments and obtain proven explanations from hypotheses. The results of these investigations are based on statistics and are generalizable.

According to the degree of manipulation of the variables

We can find different types of investigations depending on whether the data obtained is based on a greater or lesser level of variable manipulation.

8. Experimental research

This type of research is based on the manipulation of variables under highly controlled conditions , replicating a specific phenomenon and observing the degree to which the or the variables involved and manipulated produce a certain effect. The data is obtained from randomized samples, so it is assumed that the sample from which they are obtained is representative of reality. It allows establishing different hypotheses and contrasting them through a scientific method.

9. Quasi-experimental

Quasi-experimental research resembles experimental research in the fact that it is intended to manipulate one or several specific variables, with the difference that there is no total control over all variables, such as aspects related to the type of sample that It is presented to the experiment .

10. Not experimental

This type of research is based primarily on observation . In it, the different variables that are part of a given situation or event are not controlled.

Depending on the type of inference

Another type of classification can be extracted from the method used when inferring how reality works.

11. Deductive method

This type of research is based on the study of reality and the search for verification or falsification of some basic premises to verify. From the general law it is considered that it will occur in a particular situation.

12. Inductive method

The research carried out according to the inductive method is based on obtaining conclusions from the observation of facts. Observation and analysis allow us to draw more or less true conclusions, but it does not allow us to establish generalizations or predictions.

13. Hypothetical-deductive method

This type of research is what is considered truly scientific. It is based on the generation of hypotheses from facts observed through induction, some hypotheses that generate theories that in turn must be verified and falsified through experimentation .

Depending on the time period in which it is performed

Depending on the type of monitoring of the variables that are carried out, we can find two types of research.

14. Longitudinal

Longitudinal research is a type of research that is characterized by monitoring the same subjects or processes over a specific period . It allows to see the evolution of the observed characteristics and variables.

15. Transversal

These types of research focus on the comparison of certain characteristics or situations in different subjects at a specific time, all subjects sharing the same temporality. 

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