Applied Research, Basic Research

In science disciplines, researchers commonly distinguish between applied problems–practical, everyday problems linked to particular rhetorical situations, and big picture, basic problems–i.e., the sort of research that explains cause-and-effect relationships or correlational relationships.


Both applied and basic research projects matter. One form of research is not necessarily superior to the other. However, basic research provides insights that researchers across disciplines and across rhetorical occasions use to develop applications and applied solutions.

In the sciences and social sciences, it has become commonplace to argue that applied research should be funded prior to basic research. The thinking here may be tied to assumptions that we know what we know about the the natural sciences, that environmental and medical problems should supercede the interests of talented researchers moving forward.

Applied ResearchResearch conducted to solve particular problems in the world for specific situations.
Basic ResearchResearch conducted to produce knowledge claims that a discourse community considers to be valid, credible, authentic.

It is commonplace to sort research by its purpose or aim. The two dominant aims of research are Applied Research and Basic Research

Applied Research

Applied Research is the work that gets done to solve workplace, educational, personal, and social problems

Applied Research refers to efforts to make the world a better place.

Researchers engage in applied research to analyze obstacles, problems and create commercial opportunities.

Basic Research

Basic Research is driven by curiosity about how some aspect of the world works.

Basic Research is not conducted to solve specific problems for specific communities nor is it conducted to develop specific applications. Rather, the goal of Basic Research is to contribute to knowledge–i.e., what discourse communities/communities believe to be true.

However, in the real world, research practices are iterative. Scholars engaged in textual research view knowledge making as a never-ending dialogic process–i.e., dialectic. Scientists conduct repeated trials of investigations. And along away, as researchers engage in composing and ongoing dialectic, thanks to the iterative nature of research, basic research may result in Applied Research or have unexpected commercial applications.

For example, the following Basic Research led to applications–i.e., Applied Research.

  • “Discovery of x-rays which led to studying bone fractures
  • Discovery of chlorpromazine, a drug used in the treatment of schizophrenia
  • Discovery of dark adaptation which helped establish a theory of basic visual processes that led to applications in treating night blindness and reading x-rays
  • Psychological studies of decision making that led to important findings in the fields of education, medicine, and economics” (Psych Central, Retrieved 3/15/20).
Examples of Basic Research in Writing Studies

How does writing shape thinking?
In terms of human development, when can students learn to adopt their messages for their audiences?
What is the relationship between speech, thought and language?