What Is Research and What Are the Basic Steps of Research?

Research is a creative and systematic work that increases the stock of knowledge. Systematic work of research involves the collection, organization and analysis of information to increase understanding of a topic or issue.

Etymology of Research

The word research is derived from the Middle French “recherche”, which means “to go about seeking”, the term itself being derived from the Old French term “recerchier” a compound word from “re-” + “cerchier”, or “sercher”, meaning ‘search’. The earliest recorded use of the term was in 1577.

Definitions of Research by Authors and Organisations

Gratton & Jones say, “Research is a systematic process of discovery and advancement of human knowledge.”

“Research is a detailed study of a subject, especially in order to discover new information or reach a new understanding”, mentioned in Cambridge Online Dictionary.

Britannica Dictionary states, “Research is a careful study that is done to find and report new knowledge about something”

According to The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), “Any creative systematic activity undertaken in order to increase the stock of knowledge, including knowledge of man, culture and society, and the use of this knowledge to devise new applications.”

John W. Creswell states, “Research is a process of steps used to collect and analyze information to increase our understanding of a topic or issue”. According to Reswell, research consists of three steps: pose a question, collect data to answer the question, and present an answer to the question.

It is read on Hampshire College of United States’ website, “Research is a process of systematic inquiry that entails collection of data; documentation of critical information; and analysis and interpretation of that data/information, in accordance with suitable methodologies set by specific professional fields and academic disciplines.”

According to Theodorson and Theodorson, “Research refers to any honest attempt to study a problem systematically or to add to man’s knowledge of a problem.”

According to The American Psychologist Association (APA), research is a systematic effort to discover or confirm facts, to investigate a new problem or topic, or to describe events and understand relationships among variables, most often by scientific methods of observation and experimentation.

Albert Szent-Gyorgyi says, “Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought.”

“Research is a process of steps used to collect and analyze information to increase our understanding of a topic or issue”.
“Research is a process of steps used to collect and analyze information to increase our understanding of a topic or issue”.

Steps of Research

There are 8 common stages or steps in a research process. Each step of a research project, from identifying a research question, setting up the methodology, collecting and analyzing data and finally writing up a report, is outlined in the following sections.

  1. Identifying the problem
  2. Reviewing literature
  3. Setting research questions, objectives, and hypotheses
  4. Choosing the study design
  5. Deciding on the sample design
  6. Collecting and managing data
  7. Processing and analyzing data
  8. Writing the report

1. Identify an area of interest

The first step in the research process is choosing an area of interest and a specific research topic; this step is called identifying research the problem.

2. Reviewing literature

A literature review is an overview of the previously published works on a specific topic that establishes familiarity with and understanding of current research in a particular field before carrying out a new investigation. Researchers can find research gaps by reviewing literature.

3. Setting research questions, objectives, and hypotheses

After discovering and defining the research problem, researchers should make a formal statement of the problem leading to research objectives. The third step of a research work is to clarify research questions, objectives and make hypotheses. Then, what are research questions, research objectives, and hypotheses?

Research questions

Research questions are the set of questions that a research project sets out to answer.

Research objectives

Research objectives are the outcomes that you aim to achieve by conducting research. The objectives of a research work will precisely say what should be researched, to delineate the type of information that should be collected, and provide a framework for the scope of the study.


Research hypothesis is a statement of expectation or prediction that will be tested by research. Before formulating a research hypothesis, researchers should read about the topic of interest to them. A hypothesis is an unproven statement or proposition that can be refuted or supported by empirical data. Hypothetical statements assert a possible answer to a research question. OxfordLanguage Dictionary states that hypothesis is a supposition or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation. According to Oxford Reference, “Hypothesis is a statement of the expected relationship between things being studied, which is intended to explain certain facts or observations. An idea to be tested.”

4. Choosing the study design

The research design is called the blueprint or framework for fulfilling objectives and answering research questions. Researchers should specify the methods and procedures for collecting, processing, and analyzing the collected data.

There are four basic research designs that a researcher can use to conduct his or her study;

  1. survey,
  2. experiment,
  3. secondary data study
  4. observational study.

5. Deciding on the sample design

Sample design refers to the methods to be followed in selecting a sample from the population and the estimating technique, vis-a-vis formula for computing the sample statistics; here population is the total collection of elements about which we wish to make some inference or generalization.

6. Collecting and managing data

Collecting data involves gathering the information obtained from your measures to help test your research question. The gathering of data may range from simple observation to a large-scale survey in any defined population. There are many ways to collect data.

7. Processing and analyse data

Processing and analysing the collected data is needed to  find the answers to research questions. Data processing generally begins with the editing and coding of data after those are collected from the population according to the objectives and design. Data are edited to ensure consistency across respondents and to locate omissions, if any. 

8. Write a report

A research report is a well-crafted document that outlines the processes, data, and findings of a systematic investigation. It is an important document that serves as a first-hand account of the research process, and it is typically considered an objective and accurate source of information.

A report is an excellent means that helps to establish the researcher’s credibility. At a bare minimum, a research report should contain sections on:

  • An executive summary
  • Background of the problem
  • Literature review
  • Methodology
  • Findings
  • Discussion
  • Conclusions and
  • Recommendations

The results of the study can also be disseminated through peer-reviewed journals published by academic institutions and reputed publishers both at home and abroad.


  • American Psychological Association. (n/a). Research. https://dictionary.apa.org/research
  • Britannica Dictionary. (n/a). https://www.britannica.com/dictionary/research
  • Cambridge Dictionary. (n/a). https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/research
  • Creswell, J. W. (2008). Educational Research: Planning, conducting, and evaluating quantitative and qualitative research (3rd ed.)
  • Formplus Blog. (2020). Research Report: Definition, Types + [Writing Guide]. https://www.formpl.us/blog/research-report
  • Gratton, C. & Jones, I. (2009) Research Methods for Sports Studies, 2nd edition.
  • Hampshire College. (n/a). What is Research?. https://www.hampshire.edu/dof/what-is-research
  • iEduNote. (n/a). Research Process: 8 Steps in Research Process. https://www.iedunote.com/research-process
  • Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. (2021). Glossary of Statistical Terms. https://stats.oecd.org/glossary/detail.asp?ID=2312
  • OxfordLanguages. (n/a). Oxford Languages and Google.
  • Oxford University Press. (n/a). hypothesis. Oxford Reference. https://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803095954735#:~:text=A%20statement%20of%20the%20expected,An%20idea%20to%20be%20tested.
  • Rahman, M. (2021) Research – definition of research. howandwhat.net. https://howandwhat.net/research-definition-of-research/
  • Wikipedia. (n/a). Research. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Research

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