Academic vs Applied Research

Academic and applied research are perhaps the only two ways that research can be performed. In this post, we will look at the differences between these two perspectives on research.

Academic Research

Academic research falls into two categories. These two categories are

  • Research ON your field
  • Research FOR your field

Research ON your field is research is research that is searching for best practice. It looks at how your academic area is practiced in the real world. A scholar will examine how well a theory is being applied or used in a real-world setting and make recommendations.

For example, in education, if a scholar does research in reading comprehension, they may want to determine what are some of the most appropriate strategies for teaching reading comprehension. The scholar will look at existing theories and such which one(s) are most appropriate for supporting students.

Research ON your field is focused on existing theories that are tested with the goal of developing recommendations for improving practice.

Research FOR your field is slightly different. This perspective seeks to expand theoretical knowledge about your field. In orders, the scholar develops new theories rather than assess the application of older ones.

An example of this in education would be developing a new theory in reading comprehension. By theory, it is meant explanation. Famous theories in education include Piaget’s stages of development, Kohlberg’s stages of moral development, and more. At their time each of these theories pushes the boundaries of our understanding of something.

The main thing about academic research is that it leads to recommendations but not necessarily to answers that solve problems. Answering problems is something that is done with applied research.

Applied Research

Applied research is also known as research IN your field. This type of research is often performed by practitioners in the field.

  • research IN your field

There are several forms of research IN your field and they are as follows

  • Formative
  • Monitoring
  • Summative

Formative research is for identifying problems. For example, a teacher may notice that students are not performing well or doing their homework. Formative applied research is when the detective hat is put on and the teacher begins to search for the cause of this behavior.

The results of formative research lead to some sort of an action plan to solve the problem. During the implementation of the solution, monitoring applied research is conducted. Monitoring research is conducted during implementation of a solution to see how things are going.

For example, if the teacher discovers that students are struggling with reading because they are struggling with phonological awareness.  They may implement a review program of this skill for the students. Monitoring would involve assessing student performance of reading during the program.

Summative applied research is conduct at the end of implementation to see if the objectives of the program were met. Returning to the reading example, if the teacher’s objective was to improve reading comprehension scores 10% the summative research would assess how well the students can now read and whether there was a 10% improvement.

In education, applied research is also known as action research.

Conclusion

Research can serve many different purposes.  Academics focus on recommendations, not action while practitioners want to solve problems and perhaps not recommend as much. The point is that understanding what type of research you are trying to conduct can help you in shaping the direction of your study.

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