What is Basic Research?
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What is Basic Research?

Find out the meaning of basic research, its basic features and examples.

Universities or research-oriented institutions are always at the forefront of advancing knowledge on different fields of endeavour, that is, utilizing research as a tool towards greater understanding of phenomena. This understanding may later lead to practical applications beneficial to human society. The nature of researches conducted, therefore, can be categorized, either as basic or applied research.

Generally, universities engage in basic research while profit-oriented research institutions anticipate the economic benefit that could be derived from practical applications of research findings. Many students new to the research field, however, are not very clear about whether they are actually performing basic research or applied research in the course of conceptualizing their research topics as part of their college or graduate school requirements.

How different is basic research from applied research? This article discusses the former approach.

What then is basic research? What are the features of basic research? What are examples of basic research?

Basic Research Defined

Basic research is also alternatively called pure research or fundamental research. This kind of research approach is aimed towards the understanding of fundamental principles behind the operation of the world. The main purpose of basic research is to satisfy or provide answers to a scientist’s curiosity or interest in a scientific question.

The Features of Basic Research: What It Is and What It Is Not

To expound further, basic research has the following features, characteristics or purposes:

  • increases understanding of fundamental principles
  • builds new knowledge
  • often purely theoretical in nature
  • usually a source of new scientific ideas or new perspectives about the world
  • lays down the foundation of science
  • mainly academic in nature or carried out by universities
  • its approaches can be exploratory, descriptive, or explanatory but the latter is most common
  • refutes or supports theories that explain how the world operates
  • increases man’s scientific knowledge base or understanding of phenomenon
  • does not seek to solve problems
  • outcome does not have potential, direct economic value
  • generates new ideas, principles and theories or simply expand man’s knowledge
  • no immediate practical use
  • expands knowledge about things
  • it is not intended to create or invent something

Examples of Basic Research Questions

Sometimes it is still difficult to grasp concepts unless there are examples to illustrate clearly the meaning of those concepts. Examples of basic research questions are therefore given below:

  • What is the effect of roasting on the antioxidant property of coffee?
  • What makes a hard wood so tough?
  • What are protons, neutrons, and electrons composed of?
  • What is the specific genetic code of the anteater?
  • How do the cockroaches reproduce?
  • How did our universe come to be the way it is?

A better understanding of things mentioned above can give rise to applied spin-offs or practical applications in human affairs. The outputs of basic research can have far reaching significance such as the discovery of the properties of the atom, or just the simple, common knowledge nowadays that living things are made up of cells. Or complex things like finding out what happens when high speed atomic particles are collided together using a mammoth Large Hadron Collider in view of understanding how the universe came to be.


Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's ELSI Project .

The Telegraph


© 2011 September 6 Patrick A. Regoniel What is Basic Research? 

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Comments (6)

This article teaches many things basically.Thanks.

I have been teaching research design and I could really use these data. Thanks for sharing!

Thanks for explaining this.

Great article, and love the cartoons!

Learned something new as always especially from our kabayan's articles, thanks.

Useful resource for students...