The word research is comprised of two words, re and search. The dictionary meaning defines “re” as a prefix which means again, anew or over again and “search” as a verb meaning to examine closely & carefully, to test or try or to probe.
Together they form a noun describing a careful, systematic, patient study and investigation in some field of knowledge to undertake to establish facts or principles, or one can also define research as a scientific & systematic search for pertinent information on a specific topic. According to Earl Robert Babbie, an American sociologist, “Research is a systematic inquiry to describe, explain, predict, and control the observed phenomenon. Research involves inductive and deductive methods.”
The Encyclopaedia of social sciences defines research, “as the manipulation of the things, concepts or symbols for the purpose of generalising to extend or verify knowledge, whether that knowledge aids in construction of theory or in practice of an art.”
John W. Creswell, states that "research is a process of steps used to collect and analyze information to increase our understanding of a topic or issue".
The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines research as "studious inquiry or examination; especially : investigation or experimentation aimed at the discovery and interpretation of facts, revision of accepted theories or laws in the light of new facts, or practical application of such new or revised theories or laws".
According to Department of Education and Training,“Research is defined as the creation of new knowledge and/or the use of existing knowledge in a new and creative way so as to generate new concepts, methodologies and understandings. This may include synthesis and analysis of preceding research to the extent that it leads to new and creative outcomes”.
After going through definitions of research given by different scholars, one can easily draw out the following common things about the meaning of research:
Research is a type of investigation or examination.
It is a purposeful endeavour, as there is always a purpose of research and we call it research problem. Research is a voyage to reach a particular destination.
There is always a need of particular kind of methodology in the conduct of research.
At a general level, research has three steps:
1. Constitute a question.
2. Collect relevant data to answer that question.
3. Present an answer to the question.
Concluding, to understand it, when we say that we are undertaking research, it implies that we are going to do three things:
That there will be an examination or investigation.
That there will be a problem to be answered or an objective to conduct research.
That the researcher will conduct a research by implying a well defined method.