What are the various types of research done in the academic field?

In the words of Albert Szent Gyorgyi:

“Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought.”


Before one gets into the various types of research that are conducted in the academic field, one needs to know the meaning of the term “research”. In a layman’s language, research is the study of information in order to understand something, or in order to discover facts about something. It primarily is to search for more information, on any topic to either understand the topic better or to know the concept. Research is a very important skill that students, are taught in their lower classes. One gets to experience the true joy of research while doing a dissertation or a thesis. Students, discover their writing styles and researching ability. The whole process of research involves a lot of patience and dedication. There are times when students have to search, for a very dry topic or topic that might not interest them. Undertaking a research then becomes a daunting task. In order to maintain the interest, it is better to first get to know the topic by doing some amount of research on that subject.

There are mainly two types of research that are done in academia. They are as follows:

  1. Quantitative Research

Quantitative research is one of the main types of research that happens in the academic world. Under this type of research, students use methods that focus on measurements and statistical data. This data is collected through various mediums like polls, surveys, questionnaires using the computational technique, etc. In order to understand and explain a particular phenomenon, quantitative research method is used to collect the numerical data and generalizing it. There are various subtypes that fall into this category of research. They are as follows:

  • Descriptive Research

Under this type of research, students have to provide a detailed description of a specific situation, using various sources like interviews, documents, observations, and so on. In other words, a descriptive research is an attempt to determine, describe or identify “what is” about an event or an issue. This is done by the process of collecting information, statistics etc. This type of research involves various variables in order to conduct the study. In order to understand it better below are some examples:

“What was the impact of the global financial crisis on the US?”

“What are the features of sustainable development?”

  • Correlational Research / Associational Research

As the name suggests this type of research, looks at the relationship between two or more variables. It involves a detailed analysis, of the relationship that two or variables share. It primarily focuses on the question like, “what kind of relationship exists”, and so on.   In order to do this type of research, students have to dive deep into the subject to understand the relation between the variables in a better way.

  • Experimental Research

The term “experiment” involves a hypothesis for which the experiment is conducted. A hypothesis is something that has to be proven or disproved. This is done, by the way of experiment. Hence, experimental research is when students try to explain a particular phenomenon by conducting an experimental study. This kind of research is highly informative and it is used by many students in the field of science, social science, and so on.

  • Causal-Comparative Research

This type of research involves the study of cause and effect relation that the variables have. The term “causal-comparative” research primarily focuses, on the comparison of two entities or variables. This kind of research goes beyond studying the relationship between the variables. Rather, there is a constant comparison to find out the result. In order to do so, students have to study about two or more variables in detail to pull out a comparative study.

  • Single Subject Research

As the name suggests this type of research, involves a study that uses a group of research methods on human or non-human participants. This type of research work is highly used in the field of science and technology.

  1. Qualitative Research

Qualitative research is one of the most used methods, to conduct a research study. Under this method, the data is used in a descriptive manner. This does not involve the collection of information only; rather it goes beyond the quantitative aspect. It focuses, on the quality of the data that has been collected. For example, this type of research can be conducted through collecting observations, interviews, documents, images, etc. Qualitative research has various sub-types. They are as follows:

  • Case Study

The term “case study” signifies a study of a particular event, entity, organization, company, etc. By using this method of research, students have to study a particular variable by understanding information about it, from different data sources. Since students will be studying one variable, they have to make sure that they understand the variable wholly. This includes knowing, the variable through the means of documents, interviews, surveys etc.

  • Phenomenological Research

This type of research is used to describe, an activity or a phenomenon. This research method uses a combination of methods, to complete the study. Students, undertaking this research method will have to rely on the participants who are included in their study.

  • Narrative Research

Narrative research is primarily, a method that involves a sequence of events that are narrated in the form of a story. Since the research is in a narrative form, students can talk about their personal event or a particular issue. In order to understand the event or an issue in detail, students take interviews, read documents, and so on.

  • Ethnography

Under this type of research, students have to immerse in the participants’ environment, in order to understand the goals, culture, tradition, and other aspects of his/ her life. This is a method that, involves a span of few months or even years. Since students have to understand the status by being a part of it, this method is an in-depth firsthand experience.

  • Grounded Theory

This method of research looks to provide an explanation for an event. Students have to go through, a series of techniques in order to build a theory. This involves, conducting a detailed study and observation.


Above mentioned are the types of research that students undertake in the academic area. According to Neil Armstrong –

“Research is creating new knowledge.”

Through these methods, students can easily get started with creating something new in their area of interest.


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