Research is the systematic investigation into our existing knowledge, and the search and discovery of new knowledge. Research is defined in many sectors including: artistic, business, economic, humanities, social and scientific. Simply defined; research is the process of identification and/or confirmation of facts for the purpose of solving existing or new problems.
The process of conducting research is broken into seven essential steps, as follows:
- Identification of research problem
- Literature review
- Specifying the purpose of research
- Determine specific research questions or hypotheses
- Data collection
- Analyzing and interpreting the data
- Reporting and evaluating research
The “literature review” and “collection of data” steps are dependent on references, not only the connection and link between objects, but access to explore and extrapolate viable information from physical and digital-born reference material. Traditionally, we have defined materials such as: dictionaries, encyclopedias, books of facts, and publications found in our library, all as references. With the advent of the Digital Marketplace (digitization, metadata tagging & search engines), research and references have evolved dramatically, with many benefits, and some caveats too.
We now have access to over 80 billion web pages of content, digital references available for use in research. While much of this information is “free”, a good proportion of this content is inaccurate, biased, speculative, and created for the purpose of marketing. Therefore, researching references in the Digital Marketplace requires even more discipline, diligence and scrutiny than our traditional research from authenticated publications and sources.
On the other hand, we now have access to 80 billion digital references through a couple of key-strokes, putting us in the unique driver-seat to learn and know more than ever before.
“My original concept was to provide a free encyclopedia for every single person in the world….in their own language.” – Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, “The Free Encyclopedia”.
Wikipedia; The Free Encyclopedia: Research