The 15 Types Of Research (and Characteristics)

Science uses different approaches and techniques to generate knowledge about the world.

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

However, the milestones achieved did not appear out of nowhere. They have required years of research in very different areas, and there are a large number 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 of solving questions 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 done systematically, with clear objectives and that it starts from 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, it can be investigated 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 the objective of this

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

1. Pure or theoretical research

The main objective of this type of research is to obtain knowledge of a different nature, 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, investigations in pure mathematics, it is normal not to worry about the ease with which the conclusions obtained can be applied.

2. Applied research

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

According to the level of depth in the object of study

Research can be carried out in different ways and more or less delving into how things are or why. 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 later 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 rather tries to find significant patterns in the data that must be analyzed in order, based on these results, to create the first complete explanations of what is happening.

4. Descriptive

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

Thus, on many occasions this type of research does not even ask about the causality of the phenomena (that is, why “what is observed happens”). It is simply a matter of obtaining an enlightening picture 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 investigation that is used in order to try to determine the causes and consequences of a specific phenomenon. It seeks not only the what but the why of things, and how they have reached the state in question.

For this, different methods can be used, 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 causality mechanisms, with many variables at stake).

According to 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 that is not quantifiable in principle, based on observation. Although it offers a lot of information, the data obtained are subjective and little 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 made operational afterwards 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 procedures based on measurement. It allows a higher level of control and inference than other types of research, being possible to carry out experiments and obtain contrasted 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 starts from a higher or lower level of manipulation of variables.

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 variable or variables involved and manipulated produce a specific effect. The data are obtained from randomized samples, so it is assumed that the sample from which they are obtained is representative of reality. It allows to establish different hypotheses and to contrast them through a scientific method.

9. Quasi-experimental

Quasi-experimental research is similar to experimental research in the fact that it is intended to manipulate one or more specific variables, with the difference that there is not total control over all variables, such as aspects related to the type of sample that is presented to the experiment.

10. Not experimental

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

According to the type of inference

Another type of classification can be extracted from the method used to infer how reality works.

11. From 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 be verified. From the general law it is considered that it will occur in a particular situation.

12. Inductive method

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

13. From the 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, hypotheses that generate theories that in turn must be tested and falsified through experimentation.

According to the time period in which it is carried out

Depending on the type of monitoring of the variables that is 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 moment, all subjects sharing the same temporality. 

Bibliographic references:

  • Hernández, R., Fernández, C., and Baptista, MP (2010) Research Methodology (5th Ed.). Mexico: McGraw Hill Education.
  • Pagano, RR (2000). Statistics for the behavioral sciences. Madrid: International Thompson.
  • Sánchez Carrión, JJ (1995). Data analysis manual. Madrid: Alliance.

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