What is academic research?

Academic researchers are responsible for conducting studies into various different aspects of life, with the eventual aim of developing a more in-depth knowledge of the subject.

It’s all about using new research techniques, developing studies into untouched areas of life and giving us a better understanding of the world in which we live.

What does academic research involve?

Typically, academic researchers are employed by universities or colleges. The work itself is usually carried out as a personal project or alongside other academic tutors.

Alternatively, your role as an academic researcher could mean assisting students with their personal research. If a student was doing a dissertation on the similarities between the red blood cells in a gorilla and a grimpoteuthis, for instance, they may need the help and expertise of an academic researcher.

Most academic researchers work as university professors or college tutors in addition to the research work they do. The research process itself can take three different forms:

  • Exploratory research is carried out with the aim of identifying new problems
  • Constructive research is based around developing solutions or answers to a current problem
  • Empirical research looks to study the feasibility of a specific solution and how long it remains relevant.

“What’s the point of all this research though?” I hear you say. Well, it’s simple; conducting research allows us to become more knowledgeable and, therefore, to continue to evolve. It gives us a greater understanding of life, the way we live and why we are the way we are. We may scoff at bizarre stories about research into the hyper-sexuality of squirrels, but those same researchers could find a cure for cancer. You never know!

Most research at universities is eventually published in the form of a scholarly journal or book. These may be reviewed by academic scholars and then may be circulated to a wider audience. This could eventually be picked up by the press or go even wider afield.

The research itself is usually funded by the university or college in question. Sometimes though, funding can be provided by external sources who may be commissioning the research for their own purposes.

What do I need to get into academic research?

In any career where research is prominent, you really have to have a certain way of thinking. Not only do you need to be analytical, but also patient, innovative and forward-thinking. That’s essential because you’ll never be doing exploratory research into a subject that’s already been studied.

You’ll also have to be incredibly resilient, simply because experiments and research won’t always provide you with the correct results straight away.

Understandably, academic researchers will have an impressive academic background and you will need undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications in your chosen scientific project to work in this area and secure funding.

If the thought of travelling unchartered intellectual territories excites you then check out some of the occupational profiles below:

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