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Basic vs. Applied Research: Differences & Examples

Shalonda Skidmore, Devin Kowalczyk, Lesley Chapel
  • Author
    Shalonda Skidmore

    Dr. Shalonda Skidmore is an educational professional with over 15 years of experience. She taught English I-IV for 5 years, served as a guidance counselor for 7 years, and has been working at the district level for 3 years. Dr. Skidmore has a BS degree from Grambling State University, a MA degree from Southern University in Baton Rouge, and a Ph.D. from Louisiana State University. Her expertise includes social and cultural studies, non-traditional counseling, and motivating students and adults to reach their academic and professional potential.

  • Instructor
    Devin Kowalczyk

    Devin has taught psychology and has a master's degree in clinical forensic psychology. He is working on his PhD.

  • Expert Contributor
    Lesley Chapel

    Lesley has taught American and World History at the university level for the past seven years. She has a Master's degree in History.

Understand application research and basic research definitions. Know the difference between basic and applied research and see examples of each. Updated: 02/24/2022

Basic Research Definition

Research is used to help people gain new knowledge and understanding or generate new concepts or ideas. Any research undertaking should be conducted carefully and diligently, with serious inquiry and examination, so that the ending discovery is based on an accurate interpretation of facts. The research will always fall into one of two categories, depending on its intended purpose and use, basic or applied.

Basic research is a study conducted for the sole purpose of enhancing or growing the knowledge base in a particular field of study. This type of study is used to explore what is not known and is driven by the researcher's interest and curiosity. Basic research is frequently referred to as fundamental research due to it being knowledge specific. This research simply collects and examines data in such a way that the information obtained enhances the quality of knowledge in the subject. Basic research can also include evaluations, which are essentially critical examinations of a program or service for informational purposes.

Basic research is usually conducted in a controlled environment so that any observations and behaviors regarding the research subject or participants are based on strict investigations. Although basic research may be conducted in a controlled environment, the scope of the research is universal, since it deals with diverse concepts across subject matters. From the knowledge that basic research provides, a researcher can formulate a theory, generalization, or specific principle to explain a concept that can be universally applied. The outcome of basic research does not answer a hypothesis; instead, it makes way for the theories or generalizations to be tested by applied research.


Basic research fits perfectly with pieces of knowledge already available on the topic.

Brain puzzle


Different Kinds of Research

Human beings like to categorize things. We don't like amorphous groupings of ideas floating around. It just makes things difficult to comprehend. I'm not going to shock anyone when I say that one thing that is divided into categories is research. One way to make research topics more manageable is dividing the topics by asking the question, 'What will this be used for?'

Applied research is one type of research that is used to answer a specific question that has direct applications to the world. This is the type of research that solves a problem. We will look at an example later.

Basic research is another type of research, and it is driven purely by curiosity and a desire to expand our knowledge. This type of research tends not to be directly applicable to the real world in a direct way, but enhances our understanding of the world around us. So, the real difference between the two types of research is what they will be used for. Will the research be used to help us understand a real world problem and solve it, or will the research further our general information?

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Basic Research Examples

There are ways to spot basic research easily by looking at the research title. Any research involving an evaluation, a process, or a description is probably basic research. This type of research only gives insight, not a direct application to a problem.

  • How do children's memories work? This is basic research because the informational result can help to develop new learning theories or help teachers to change their learning environments.
  • Discovering secondary symptoms of COVID-19. This is basic research because it will help gain insight into a health issue.
  • What does anxiety in teenagers look like? This is basic research because it adds to the body of knowledge regarding anxiety, specifically in teenagers.

Applied Research Definition

Applied research is research conducted to provide a solution to an established problem, issue, or concern. This form of research includes solution-oriented questioning for a particular event, experience, or circumstance. Therefore, it is frequently referred to as "conceptual research." Applied research is often the follow-up to a theme, theory, or question arising from basic research developments. Applied research examines empirical evidence for answers.

Applied research is conducted in a real-life setting, allowing dependent and independent variables to interact with each other freely. The manipulation of variables may also be affected by outside elements. With this type of study, the researcher has a more comprehensive summary of the cause/effect relationship and can arrive at accurate and useful solutions. The scope of applied research is more limited since the research question is streamlined to generate an outcome or determination. The aim is always to arrive at a result that can solve a practical problem. The outcome of applied research will always prove or disprove the researcher's hypothesis. This is used for commercial gain in which outcomes can be immediately applied to the context in which the research question was generated.

Applied Research Examples

Here is how basic research questions can be turned into applied research questions.

  • How do teachers better classroom interactions to improve the memory of children? Here, the results would yield a solution regarding the two variables; classroom interaction and memory. The results would also yield real-world application.
  • What causes the onset of secondary side effects of COVID-19? A medical professional could use the results of this study to use evidence-based information to tell a patient when they may experience a specific side effect.
  • What causes anxiety in teenagers? This is applied research because it shows a cause/effect relationship among variables. The results can also be used by the public to know how to help teenagers decrease anxiety.

Applied Research

As mentioned before, applied research is something that we can use. Here is a simple question: 'How should a student study?' There are many ways to go about answering this question, and the ones we will look at have a direct and applicable finding. For example, what can research tell us about how a student studies?

Most people like to study in their bedroom, laying on their bed in some weird posture. They collect all their notes and spread them haphazardly across the bed. Just reading is boring, so they may have the radio on. Some people have both the radio and the television on. Then, people have to talk to their friends so their phone isn't far off. And, pets are usually somewhere in the paperwork. However, research has found that a quiet room, without music, animals or television, improves concentration.

Sitting like you will take the test creates a state of consciousness similar to taking the test. And, instead of taking all the notes and trying to cram before the test, it should be spaced out. When proper study habits are applied, they can increase scores on tests and allow a person to retain the information longer. In other words, we researched the best way to study and will now apply our findings - this is applied research.

Basic Research

We have an idea of what applied research does, but how does basic research fit into the broader world of research? If it costs money, time and other precious resources, but does not have a direct application, then why bother? Because basic research feeds applied research, and applied research feeds basic research. Basic research is a little less direct than applied research, so we will look at two different examples.

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Video Transcript

Different Kinds of Research

Human beings like to categorize things. We don't like amorphous groupings of ideas floating around. It just makes things difficult to comprehend. I'm not going to shock anyone when I say that one thing that is divided into categories is research. One way to make research topics more manageable is dividing the topics by asking the question, 'What will this be used for?'

Applied research is one type of research that is used to answer a specific question that has direct applications to the world. This is the type of research that solves a problem. We will look at an example later.

Basic research is another type of research, and it is driven purely by curiosity and a desire to expand our knowledge. This type of research tends not to be directly applicable to the real world in a direct way, but enhances our understanding of the world around us. So, the real difference between the two types of research is what they will be used for. Will the research be used to help us understand a real world problem and solve it, or will the research further our general information?

Applied Research

As mentioned before, applied research is something that we can use. Here is a simple question: 'How should a student study?' There are many ways to go about answering this question, and the ones we will look at have a direct and applicable finding. For example, what can research tell us about how a student studies?

Most people like to study in their bedroom, laying on their bed in some weird posture. They collect all their notes and spread them haphazardly across the bed. Just reading is boring, so they may have the radio on. Some people have both the radio and the television on. Then, people have to talk to their friends so their phone isn't far off. And, pets are usually somewhere in the paperwork. However, research has found that a quiet room, without music, animals or television, improves concentration.

Sitting like you will take the test creates a state of consciousness similar to taking the test. And, instead of taking all the notes and trying to cram before the test, it should be spaced out. When proper study habits are applied, they can increase scores on tests and allow a person to retain the information longer. In other words, we researched the best way to study and will now apply our findings - this is applied research.

Basic Research

We have an idea of what applied research does, but how does basic research fit into the broader world of research? If it costs money, time and other precious resources, but does not have a direct application, then why bother? Because basic research feeds applied research, and applied research feeds basic research. Basic research is a little less direct than applied research, so we will look at two different examples.

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Writing Prompts About Basic Research and Applied Research

Graphic Organizer Prompt 1:

Create some type of graphic organizer that defines basic research and applied research and describes their differences. Also be sure that the graphic organizer shows how applied research and basic research are connected. Tip: A poster could work well, but a flow chart might be even better, as it could really allow you to illustrate the link between both types of research, in spite of their differences.

Essay Prompt 1:

Write an essay that details an example of applied research. Be sure to describe the scenario being researched, and then explain how the research can be applied to the real world.

Example: People who are trying to quit smoking often find that certain activities are triggers for their smoking habit. For instance, people who smoke often like to do so while driving. Smokers also tend to enjoy the oral stimulation that smoking provides. Therefore, the best thing to do to prevent people from smoking while driving is to make sure that they have suckers or hard candies in their vehicle, and that their cigarettes are inaccessible. This will allow them to enjoy the oral stimulation from the candy and prevent them from smoking while driving.

Essay Prompt 2:

Write an essay that details an example of basic research. Be sure to include the concept of evaluation in your example.

Example: You are curious about life in the Antebellum South, so you decide to go to the library and read some history books written on it. As you begin your research, though, you evaluate the Antebellum South and ask yourself what would be helpful to know about it. As you evaluate, you might ask questions like, What was the economy like? How many slaves were there in the population? What states comprised the Antebellum South? What were the roles of women?

What is the difference between basic and applied research?

Basic research is theoretical or evaluative, while applied research is practical and causal. Basic research is considered universal knowledge, while applied research is focused on a specific topic. Basic research occurs in a controlled environment, while applied research is conducted in a real-world setting.

What is the purpose of applied research?

The purpose of applied research is to provide a solution to a specific problem. It also serves to show any cause/effect relationships.

What is the purpose of basic research?

Basic research is conducted to add information or knowledge to an existing body of work. It can also be done to provide an evaluation of services or a program.

What is basic and applied research with examples?

Research on identifying symptoms of a heart attack among females would be basic research because it is informational, based on a universal concept, and adds to the field of knowledge regarding heart disease. The impacts of heart disease among obese women over the age of forty would be applied research since it includes a specific problem and shows a cause/effect relationship.

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