Monday, October 6, 2008

Research in Mind

Adam CarleAdam Carle

Department of Psychology

Have you ever tried to define research? As UNF continues to grow and change, research has become an increasingly discussed aspect of UNF’s institutional setting. Our mission statement notes that we “support and recognize research and creative endeavor as essential university functions.” And, heck, I’m told it’s part of our responsibility as faculty members to conduct research. Given that I regularly conduct research, I thought it might be fun to try and define research. I thought I’d try and define research in a way that encompassed as many of the academic fields and sciences as possible. It turns out, I’m having an awfully hard time! In this installment of the blog, I thought I’d ask for your help, and, hopefully, generate some discussion. Please, read my (bad) attempt at defining research below. Then, tell me what you think. What does it miss? What does it overstate? How does it relate to what you do (or don’t do) here at UNF? I can’t wait to read what you have to say.

Research, broadly defined, encompasses systematic and organized approaches to accurately describe, predict, and understand the heterogeneous aspects of existence. These efforts include basic and/or applied settings, quantitative and/or qualitative efforts, and cover the vast array of academic disciplines. Regardless of field, these endeavors use a set of planned procedures to examine their topic and arrive at accurate conclusions.

Programmatic research differs in that it typically seeks to break a large research topic into smaller, more manageable pieces. This often allows more stringent control and more detailed, fine grained analyses. Programmatic research addresses each piece sequentially in an effort to build an encompassing and coherent picture from the smaller studies’ findings. Programmatic research allows investigators to incorporate their findings into the discipline’s field at large and build upon others’ research. Programs of research support sustained, long term, focused efforts.

Sponsored research refers to research funded by an external research organization. Because of its nature, programmatic research often needs material resources an investigator or institution cannot easily or continuously supply. Relatedly, sponsors may lack sufficient human capital (knowledge or otherwise). As a result, sponsors, investigators, and investigator’s institutions enter into partnerships to overcome these boundaries. Research and sponsorship often go hand in hand and sponsorship suggests that a topic and method have achieved recognition, especially when the funding process includes peer review. Nevertheless, not all research needs funding to proceed, nor must funding exist to consider an endeavor as research. As a result, though investigators often require sponsorship to conduct research, sponsorship itself proves neither necessary or sufficient as a definition of research.