Research can be defined as a quest for knowledge, or any other systematic and objective investigation for solving problems, proving new ideas, or developing new theories. Martin Shuttleworth writes “In the broadest sense of the word, the definition of research includes any gathering of data, information and facts for the advancement of knowledge” whereas “research” according to Creswell “is a process of steps used to collect and analyze information to increase our understanding of a topic or issue”. There may be several types of research works such as scientific research, research in the humanities and artistic research. Whatever academic field a research is for, the objective and method of reporting the research work remains almost the same.
Most research work is published in a journal in the form of research articles, thesis or a book. A number of established academic disciplines have their specialized journals and other dedicated outlets for publishing research work. However, many academic journals are rather interdisciplinary as they publish work from different academic fields.
The concept of “peer-reviewing” is central to the publication of a research article. Scientific and research articles are peer-reviewed, which means that other scholars in the same academic discipline have found the article high in quality and authentic in research so as to merit publication. Peer-review also guards against plagiarism. Failures in this regard may give rise to scandals such as Bogdanov affair in theoretical physics and the famous Sokal affair. However, peer-review is not without its limitations. According to Rena Steinzor “Perhaps the most widely recognized failing of peer review is its inability to ensure the identification of high quality work. The list of important scientific papers that were initially rejected by peer-reviewed journals goes back at least as far as the editor if Philosophical Transaction’s 1796 rejection of Edward Jenner’s report of the first vaccination against smallpox”.
The format of research articles varies by academic field, however, a basic format is worth discussing. A research article typically commences with a title which is selected with intended audience in mind. The title may or may not be extremely technical. The “authors” section lists the name of the first author who actually did the research. Names of other persons, who significantly contributed to the work, may also be included. The “abstract” section is the preface to the article and may be less technical than the rest of the article. “Introduction” summarizes the circumstances which led to the conduct of research work. It is to convey to readers the background of the research. Under the subheading of “material and methods” there should be appropriate disclosure about the tools and techniques used. This is to enable an independent researcher to repeat the research in precisely the same manner. The inclusion of a diagram, table or flowchart proves helpful to adequately explain the methods employed in research. Finally, in the “results” section, findings of a research are reported. This may include the presentation of data in tabular format.
Research articles have been widely used in communicating research findings to general public and other researchers. They have been proved successful in furthering the progress of an academic field.