Applied Research

There are two categories of research done at institutions of higher education across Canada.   Basic research is triggered by the need to expand our understanding and the base of knowledge about a certain object of study. Basic research is intended to seek new knowledge or construct new theories. The second type, called applied research, is focused on a specific and concrete problem where the researcher seeks to gain answers that can be used for direct application to resolve an identified problem (Polit & Beck, 2017, p.14). Although both types of research are equally important, basic research tends to be more abstract and theoretical, while applied research is more practical and pragmatic.

Both basic and applied research studies are triggered by a research question. Although the topic under study may be the same in each category, the research questions would appear differently in their focus. As an example, if you wanted to study foreign language in postsecondary educational settings, your research questions may look like the following for each research category:

  • Basic Research Question: “How do humans acquire a foreign language?” (broad focus)
  • Applied Research Question: “How can we effectively teach foreign languages in a college classroom?” (problem-focus)

In Canada, the institutes of Applied Arts and Technology have the mandate to develop applied research. As such, they are committed to the resolution of specific internal challenges and external problems. An example of an internal challenge could be how to support the academic success and social integration of a culturally diverse student population, which is an issue that the colleges themselves face. An example of an external problem could be anything that affects the communities the colleges serve, for instance, how to use art as a therapeutic method in nursing homes; or how to disseminate health and fitness awareness in kindergarten children; or how to avoid littering in public spaces; or how to increase and improve hand-washing in schools.

Polit, D., & Beck, C. (2017). Nursing research: Generating and assessing evidence for nursing practice (10th ed.) Philadelphia, PA: WoltersKluwer/Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.