What Is Formal Research? - Definition & Methods

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  • 0:01 Definition of Formal Research
  • 1:09 Formal Research Methods
  • 5:12 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jennifer Kinder
Learn about formal research and its important characteristics. Learn about the methods involved in completing formal research along with a real life research study example.

Definition of Formal Research

When you go to your doctor for high blood pressure, he knows which medication will be most helpful due to formal research. When you visit a psychologist for depression, she knows which treatment to use due to formal research. If you have surgery for a herniated disc, the surgeon knows how to remove it due to formal research. Without formal research, we might all be depressed with high blood pressure and bad backs!

Formal research is the process by which we learn new information to better understand ourselves, each other, and the world with which we interact. It has the following characteristics:

  • Systematic: It is a predictable and consistent set of steps that are used to provide reliable results.
  • Organizational: It has a highly organized structure that allows the researcher to integrate and make sense of all the information gathered.
  • Questions: It seeks to ask questions to better understand people or their environment. The questions drive each research study.
  • Finding answers: This is the expected outcome of formal research - answering important questions about our world.

Formal Research Methods

From beginning to end, formal research follows a set of predictable and organized steps. Here are the methods by which formal research is developed, executed, and communicated.

1. Develop the Research Question

Often, this involves an issue you are naturally passionate about or interested in understanding better. It could also involve noticing a gap in information that exists in current research.


In treating college students with depression, Dr. Cheer noticed that when his patients wrote down three things they were grateful for on a daily basis, their moods lifted. He wondered if writing in a gratitude journal would help people feel less depressed.

2. Consult Existing Literature

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