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Research - What is it really and why should we care?

Research is one of those illusive terms that is thrown around loosely in conversations. It can mean many things to different people and has a range of contexts. We all have at some point said “I did my research” meaning that we spent time searching the topic on Google and watching YouTube videos. However, when we get to science-based research in the context of research studies, clinical trials, and journal publications, many of us begin to get a little lost as to what research really entails and why it is important.

So, let’s start with what makes something research:

“Any Investigation or experimentation aimed at the discovery and interpretation of

facts, revision of accepted theories or laws in the light of new facts, or practical application of such new or revised theories or laws” - Merriam-Webster

Two important components of research are discovery and shared knowledge.

First, for something to be research, we cannot know the answer. It is not research if we know something is beneficial and are only applying a service or program that has been shown to be effective. We need to be trying to learn something new.

Secondly, we need to be intent on contributing to general knowledge and sharing the conclusions of our investigations. For example, a company doing internal evaluations of performance as feedback and career guidance for one individual would not be considered science-based research.

The most common ways researchers share the results of their research is through presentations at medical conferences and peer-reviewed journal publications.

So, why should we care?

Through research, we demonstrate that our new idea is really better than what we have done in the past. Without actually studying new technology, drugs, and processes in an experimental manner, we can never know if they are truly better (or at least better on average) and if we can make that determination with relative certainty (i.e. it is statistically significant).

If we really want to move forward as a society to prevent, treat, and cure diseases and to live happier and healthier, we need quality research.

Learn more about how you can support research that matters to you:

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