Scientific Investigation

What is scientific research?

Scientific research is an orderly and systematic process of inquiry in which, through the rigorous application of a set of methods and criteria, the study, analysis or inquiry around an issue or topic is pursued, with the subsequent objective of increasing, broaden or develop the knowledge that one has of it.

The fundamental objective of scientific research is to find solutions to specific problems: explain phenomena, develop theories, broaden knowledge, establish principles, reformulate approaches, refute results, etc.

For this, the research uses the scientific method, which is a tool to proceed to the analysis and investigation of the problem posed in a structured and systematic way.

In this sense, the methodology involves a series of steps or stages, in order to demonstrate the validity of the results obtained. The stages of scientific research are, broadly speaking, the following: identification of the problem, search for background information, observation, demonstration of the hypothesis, and conclusions.

Scientific research consists of three essential elements:

  • Research object. It refers to the subject or subject on which it is going to be investigated and which will be the object of detailed analysis.
  • Medium. Set of resources, methods and techniques suitable for the type of research and the topic to be addressed.
  • Purpose of the investigation. It refers to the reasons that motivate the investigation, that is, to its ultimate purpose. For example, what benefits certain knowledge will bring to society.

Characteristics of scientific research

  • It is systematic. Consider previous research as background, which provides a starting point and context. Therefore, it is part of a system of thought. For example, a study on a newly discovered planet must take Kepler’s laws into account.
  • She is methodical. Part of a defined and declared method that allows validating its results. For example, quantitative method, qualitative method, experimental, observational, field study, etc.
  • It’s neat. In order to reach its ends, scientific research requires order in the procedure, in the treatment of data and in the recording of information.
  • It’s rational. Explains the phenomenon studied objectively and rationally.
  • It is reflective and critical. Reflect on the object of study and promote critical thinking, on which the development of new knowledge depends.

See also Characteristics of science

Types of scientific research

According to its purpose:

  • Pure scientific research: Also called fundamental or basic, it is one that addresses problems of a theoretical type. It is not oriented to the solution of a practical problem, but to solve an enigma. For example, determine the origin of the dinosaurs.
  • Applied scientific research: It is one that inquires about the practical application of certain scientific knowledge. It usually starts from the knowledge advanced by pure scientific research. An example can be the study of solar energy to obtain electricity in homes.
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According to the level of knowledge:

  • Exploratory Scientific Research: It is one that aims to delimit or search for new topics of study. For example, a study on infant mortality.
  • Descriptive Scientific Research: It is one that seeks to find the structure and behavior of some phenomenon or issue. For example, a study to know and describe the immune mechanisms of the human being.
  • Explanatory scientific research: It is one that tries to formulate the laws that determine such behavior. For example, a study to determine the causes of Alzheimer’s.

According to your strategy:

  • Field Scientific Research: It is one where the researcher collects his samples or data in the same place of the investigation. For example, the archaeological study of the ruins of Egypt.
  • Experimental Scientific Research: It is one where the researcher himself creates the conditions to investigate the cause-effect relationship of a phenomenon. For example, a study to determine the effectiveness of a drug in treating a disease and its possible adverse effects.
  • Documentary scientific research: It is one that is based on data obtained from other research papers. For example, a study on the causes and consequences of the Cold War.

Stages of the scientific research process

The scientific research process involves the development of basic research stages. To understand them, we will propose a fictitious example on child malnutrition (all the names of the entities and the data have been invented).

1. Selection of the topic to be investigated. It is about determining the area and topic to study. For example,

Child nutrition and malnutrition in Mexico.

2. Background (review of the bibliography). It implies searching and selecting previous investigations on the area to start from them. For example,

There are valuable precedents on this research topic, such as the Influence of malnutrition in children under one year of age on infant mortality (1973), by María Michel-Ramírez and Recent history of maternal-infant care in Mexico (1983), by Silvestre Frenk. . These texts, written a few decades ago, continue to be a reference because… (here the researcher points out the contributions and limitations of these investigations).

3. Statement of the problem. It involves identifying the questions that the paper aims to answer. For example,

Faced with the problem of malnutrition in Mexico, the State designed the “Food for All” pilot program, strategically applied in various hospitals in Mexico. One of the most important centers has been the Maternal-Infant Hospital in Mexico City. However, we ask ourselves: has the program given the expected results in the referred health center?

4. Delimitation of the problem. It is also important to establish the limits of the investigation. This implies not only expressing what the researcher intends to solve, but also what should be excluded, so that the reader does not form expectations that are beyond the researcher’s reach. For example,

Our work will be limited to evaluating the nutritional status of the children who are beneficiaries of the “Food for All” program applied at the Hospital Maternity-Infantil de México, and will verify its effectiveness. Our work will not design a new program.

5. Hypothesis. In some types of scientific investigation, it is necessary to formulate a hypothesis. The hypothesis is the expected answer to the main question of the problem, and must be tested. For example,

The “Food for All” program implemented at the Hospital Materno-Infantil de México is capable of improving the nutrition indices of the beneficiaries.

6. Definition of the objective. Define what the overall goal of the work is, where you want to go. For example,

Verify the evolution of the state of nutrition in the beneficiary children of the “Food for all” program of the Maternal-Infant Hospital of Mexico City in 2019.

7. Justification of the problem. It is about explaining why research is important for the scientific community and for society in general. For example,

Evaluating the effectiveness of the “Food for All” program is of great interest, since the information obtained will serve as a basis for designing better food policies in favor of the integral development of Mexican society.

See also: Justification of the project

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8. Definition of the theoretical framework. Section in which the reader should be told what are the concepts and theoretical approaches of the work. For example, define what the researcher will understand by child nutrition and malnutrition.

We will understand the concept of child malnutrition in the terms defined by UNICEF:

“A child suffers malnutrition when they do not have sufficient and adequate food for their survival and for the proper functioning and development of their body and their cognitive and intellectual capacities. It is a different concept from malnutrition, which includes both lack and excess of food. The malnutrition rate is determined by direct observation, which makes it possible to identify children who are too thin or have swollen legs; and measuring height, weight and arm circumference, which are compared to reference standards” (UNICEF, LChild malnutrition: causes, consequences and strategies for its prevention and treatment2011).

9. Design and presentation of the methodology. It exposes what will be the design and methods of scientific research to be used. For example,

The research will be a retrospective study that will require the application of the observational, descriptive and analytical method.

10. Definition of the population and sample. It is determined what will be the population studied and its number. For example,

The proposed research will study the population of beneficiary children of the “Food for All” program between 0 and 12 years of age.

11. Data Collection. The data obtained during the process are collected and totalized. For example,

20 patients were evaluated, of which 13 were girls and 7 were boys, who, when admitted to the program, had a weight of…

12. Analysis of results. The results obtained, whether quantitative or qualitative, are interpreted. For example,

On average, 80% of the population studied overcame malnutrition within 3 months, while 20% managed to normalize their nutritional status in 6 months.

13. Conclusions and recommendations. The conclusions reached by the research are clearly expressed and recommendations are made for future research in the area. For example,

The investigation determined that the program has been positive, since its beneficiaries have qualitatively improved their nutritional status. We recommend that it be studied why 20% of the studied population took time to improve. In this way, it will be possible to identify areas for improvement in the design of the “Food for All” program.

See also

  • Scientific method
  • Types of hypotheses
  • Examples of hypotheses
  • Examples of theoretical framework
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Examples of Scientific Investigation

  • Impact of electromagnetic waves emitted by mobile phone antennas on health.
  • Causes and consequences of the Cold War in the international political order.
  • Exploratory study for the identification of new species in the Amazon jungle.
  • Study for the creation of artificial neurons as a treatment for brain diseases.
  • Impact of feeding on child cognitive development.
  • Culture, investment and development: analysis of the incidence of cultural consumer goods in the gross domestic product (GDP) of the nation.

Importance of scientific research

The importance of scientific research lies in the fact that it allows us to know the why of things and the functioning of nature. This information helps us to adapt to reality and improve our quality of life.

Questions are born out of scientific curiosity, and when we seek to answer them objectively through research, we can understand how things work. This knowledge can be applied to solve concrete problems.

For example, thanks to scientific research we are able to design tools, medicines, construction technologies, procedures, systems and means to apply in daily life and reach our maximum potential. Scientific research also allows us to better understand social reality and develop our capacity for reflection.

See also:

  • Research
  • experimental research
  • scientific knowledge
  • Characteristics of scientific knowledge