Chapter 2

What is Research?

The word research is simple and yet at the same time quite complex. In this section, we’ll explore definitions of research and narrow down which type of research will be discussed in this book. Let’s start by looking at the word itself.

Research can be a noun or a verb, and as such, it is already a nuanced word. When we complicate it further by introducing the idea that different academic disciplines consider research from a variety of perspectives (and use a variety of definitions), then it seems almost impossible to define simply. As we must start somewhere, we choose to begin with dictionary definitions of this word in both of its forms (noun and verb):

research / rɪˈsɜrtʃ, ˈri sɜrtʃ /


  1. diligent and systematic inquiry or investigation into a subject in order to discover or revise facts, theories, applications, etc.:recent research in medicine.
  2. a particular instance or piece of research.

verb (used without object) 

  • to investigate carefully.

verb (used with object)

  • to make an extensive investigation into; to research a matter thoroughly.

Other words for research include scrutinize, study, inquire, examine, investigate, explore, and many more. All of them, however, are basically denoting a serious look at some topic from some given perspective. Scholars consider many different academic activities to be “research,” but typically the research that is presented in the types of articles this book discusses are considered “empirical” examinations into a topic. Empirical describes research that is not based solely on theory but rather is capable of being verified via experience, observation, analysis, and conclusion. Of course, the use of theory/ies is included, but the research articles we focus on in this textbook are empirical ones. 

Within empirical research, there are a few predominant paradigms. These are typically labeled quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods research studies. You probably know which type of study is the norm for your research interests, so we will not delve into defining and describing those categories. The point to remember is that information presented in this book could be applied to any type of research manuscript.

Next, we’ll introduce another term that is often applied to research writing: GENRE.


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Preparing to Publish by Sarah Huffman; Elena Cotos; and Kimberly Becker is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.