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Les Hodges, age 13, of Springfield, I11., for his question:

WHY IS RESEARCH CONDUCTED?

Research is the use of systematic methods to evaluate ideas or to discover new knowledge. It usually means an organized, scientific investigaton.

There are two main reasons for conducting research: to discover or learn more about the ba$ic laws of nature and to apply this basic knowledge to the solution of practical problems.

Basic or fundamental research aims at a better understanding of the universe in which we live. A scientist often conducts basic research because of his own curiosity. He does not have to have any practical goal in mind.

Basic research has great importance because it supplies the fundamental knowledge for all applied research.

Applied or directed research aims at some specific objective, such as the development of a new product, process or material. This kind of research is an application of basic knowledge directed toward a specific result.

An example of this is that the application of a fundamental knowledge of magnetism resulted in the magnetic tape recorder. Another example: the use of basic knowledge of mathematics and electronics led to the high speed electronic computer.

Other well known results of applied research include dial telephones, fluorescent lights and synthetic fibers such as nylon, rayon and dacron.

Applied research may also include the improvement of products and processes already in use. For example, steel manufacturers conduct research on furnaces they use to make steel. They try to find ways to improve their designs so as to increase production or lower costs. Automobile manufacturers conduct research to reduce fumes that may pollute the air.

Because of its importance to industry, by far the larger portion of all research is in the field of applied research.

In applied research, it is usually possible to plan and organize the research program. In some cases, researchers can even predict the probability of success.

Methods for conducting an applied research program vary in many details. But most programs include three steps: definition of the problem; collection and analysis of material; and discovery of a solution.

The search for knowledge goes back to ancient times. In fact, since the beginning of history, curiosity about the world and the desire for better things has led man to new knowledge and improvements in living.

Prehistoric man discovered many of the tools and methods that made civilization possible. The ancient Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans accumulated a great store of knowledge about the world.

True research began in Europe during the 1500s. Before this time, men usually kept practical discoveries and theoretical knowledge separate.

 

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