Some people use the term research loosely, for example:
People will say they are researching different online websites to find the best place to buy a new appliance or locate a lawn care service.
TV news may talk about conducting research when they conduct a viewer poll on current event topic such as an upcoming election.
Undergraduate students working on a term paper or project may say they are researching the internet to find information.
Private sector companies may say they are conducting research to find a solution for a supply chain holdup.
However, none of the above is considered “scientific research” unless:
The research contributes to a body of science by providing new information through ethical study design or
The research follows the scientific method, an iterative process of observation and inquiry.
The Scientific Method
Make an observation: notice a phenomenon in your life or in society or find a gap in the already published literature.
Ask a question about what you have observed.
Hypothesize about a potential answer or explanation.
Make predictions if our hypothesis is correct.
Design an experiment or study that will test your prediction.
Test the prediction by conducting an experiment or study; report the outcomes of your study.
Iterate! Was your prediction correct? Was the outcome unexpected? Did it lead to new observations?
The scientific method is not separate from the Research Process. In fact the Research Process is directly related to the observation stage of the scientific method. Understanding what other scientists and researchers have already studied will help you focus your area of study and build on their knowledge.