What is scientific research?

By Ainne Thompson / On / In Research

Scientific research is a process of observation, reflection, control and measurement that provides scientific knowledge. All scientific research seeks to offer something new: discover data, laws or relationships, or develop new research methods.

The elements of a scientific investigation are:

  • Subject: The person, team or institution that carries out the investigation. The capabilities and training of the subjects involved should be relevant to such research.
  • Object: It is that which is studied, be it an organism, event, phenomenon or inanimate entity.
  • Medium: The methods and techniques used.
  • End: The objectives that are pursued.

Characteristics of scientific research


All scientific research requires prior planning. This means to establish:

  • Objectives: What is expected to check or find out.
  • Method: What will be the steps that will be followed to collect the data. This method is somewhat more specific than the scientific method in general.
  • Deadlines: Any objective is raised in relation to a specific term.


For a research to be considered scientific, it must use methods and instruments that are considered valid by the scientific community. The methods are valid when they are reliable, but it is also essential that they demonstrate logically and experimentally that they are relevant in the area in which they are applied to obtain the results sought.


The research aims to obtain new knowledge, therefore can not repeat previous research. The only cases in which this occurs is to verify or complete previously obtained data, and therefore, it is the continuation of a previous investigation.


All scientific activity has the pretension of objectivity. It is very difficult to eliminate all kinds of subjective appreciation, since the data obtained must always be interpreted. However, to achieve objectivity, work teams are used (avoiding limitation to a single point of view) and publishing the methodology used to obtain the results, allowing their verification by other work teams.

Representative sample

For a research to be reliable and relevant, it can not study a single event but must include a sufficiently large number of events or elements to reach the conclusion that it is not an isolated phenomenon. This allows, in some cases, to generalize the results obtained by the investigation.

Comprehensible results

The results of the investigations can be numerical, that is, quantitative. However, they must be explained to make explicit the conclusions that can be reached from them.

Scientific method

The scientific method is a methodological structure that can be adapted to different disciplines. It consists of:

  • Observation: The observation of a phenomenon motivates the beginning of an investigation.
  • Creation of hypotheses: Possible results are raised to which the research will arrive.
  • Experimentation: Can refer to laboratory experimentation or repeated observation of phenomena in nature.
  • Hypothesis testing: Experimentation must confirm or rule out the hypotheses.


The research is carried out within the framework of the knowledge already obtained by the scientific community and the challenges that arise from them. No research that is considered scientific is done merely to satisfy individual curiosity. Therefore, the results are published and in this way they can contribute to scientific knowledge.


When the research is published, not only the results are shared, but also the methods and procedures used to obtain them. In this way, other groups are allowed to verify, correct or contradict the results obtained.

Allows the elaboration of theories

Not all scientific investigations give knowledge that allows to generalize them in the form of theories. However, the knowledge of each investigation can be added to the knowledge obtained by others and reach more general conclusions.

There are also other investigations that, due to their results, contradict theories and allow to rectify or reject them.