Basic Research and Applied Research

Depending on the purpose and goals of the research, researchers carry out basic research or applied research. Basic research, sometimes called pure research or fundamental research, aims to prove or expand theories regarding the phenomenon. In contrast, applied research uses scientific knowledge available such as technologies or techniques, to achieve a result on the study. It is a practical application of science. Pure research seeks answers to theoretical problems. Applied research, at the other end of the spectrum, tries to solve practical issues. Both types of research usually go hand in hand with basic research is conducted at first to form an idea about the subject matter. After identifying the basic characteristics of the issue, applied research is used to get further insights on the topic and find solutions. Fundamental and applied research uses qualitative and quantitative data collection methods to gather the required information.  They include surveys, observations, focus groups, interviews, secondary data sources.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) defines the applied research as follows:

"Applied research is designed to solve practical problems of the modern world, rather than to acquire knowledge for knowledge's sake. One might say that the goal of the applied scientist is to improve the human condition."

Dr. George Smoot of LBNL adds that:

"People cannot foresee the future well enough to predict what's going to develop from basic research. If we only did applied research, we would still be making better spears."

Researchers undertake basic and applied research in a wide variety of fields such as healthcare, medicine, education, psychology, engineering, business.  

Differences between basic research and applied research

  • Fundamental research is knowledge-driven, which means it helps to acquire new knowledge on the topic. On the other hand, applied research is solution-driven that applies knowledge and inventions to find solutions.  
  • Applied research serves mainly for commercial purposes as the main aim is to develop or expand technologies, products, services.
  • We can theorize about anything in existence; hence basic research is not limited in that sense. The same cannot be said about applied research.
  • Applied research requires more resources compared to pure research.  

Fundamental research usually forms the basis for the applied research and plays a critical role in getting a successful result. Of course, simultaneous use of both types of research requires professional skills and judgment ability. Basic research may not seem relevant at first, but it may lay the groundwork for applied research, which may result in important discovery. Therefore, companies and organizations should give enough attention to both types of research to get precise data about the subject.