How to fund research and the ethics of money in research is a question that most prospective and current researchers grapple with on a regular basis. In terms of funding it will largely depend on where you hope to conduct your research and the topic of the research. Many people conduct research at an academic institution such as a university. In this case many of the universities will have a research budget that is provided from a variety of sources including the government and research councils.
If you are interested in research but don’t wish to do it at a university, then think tanks are a great alternative. They are often funded by the government, but also by consulting groups and private business. The difference between think tank and university research is that with a think thank you’ll be studying a specifically requested topic that suits that needs of the institution rather than something that you can choose yourself.
There are of course difficulties when the research is being commissioned by a company for the company. It can often be claimed that the research is biased to satisfy the needs or reflect the institution in a particular light. This isn’t always the case, but it’s something to consider if you choose to conduct research in this environment. These criticisms don’t really exist if you are conducting your research at a university.
If you wish to conduct small scale research for your own personal reasons, either for a business, to make a proposal or purely for knowledge purposes, it is possible to do this yourself for free with the help of the internet. Many prospective researchers conduct small focus groups of interviews with people they know or by finding people on the internet (there are websites which facilitate these connections) as a way of presenting their interest to prospective employers and supervisors.