Research can be divided into to main categories; theoretical and empirical.
Theoretical research uses previous work such as academic publications, data and studies and micro analyses the existing work to come to new conclusions. By cross examining preexisting research, one can identify new correlations. One might find a connection for example between people that eat a particular diet and have lower levels of a condition such as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. This often happens not only as a results of answering this specific question, but also as a by-product of attempting to discover something entirely different. One might be researching the implications of caffeine on anxiety only to find that people who drink lots of coffee have lower blood pressure.
Empirical research, which is also known as practical or primary research, consists of doing methodological research for the first time rather than simply using existing materials. Primary research can, by and large, be split into two categories; qualitative and quantitative. Qualitative research deals with hypotheses regarding motivations and opinions. Interviews and focus groups are the main source of information regarding qualitative research; with observations also being undertaken.
Quantitative research is based on data and statistics. This is not only used in scientific circumstances but also for social, artistic and political research. However, it differs from qualitative research in that it doesn’t focus on opinion or thought but rather numbers. Instead of ascertaining people’s ideas and thoughts about a political party, quantitative research would look at the ages of people and what party they vote for and from this a clear statistical conclusion can be drawn.
For extensive research the two methodologies are often used in conjunction with each other. One might look to analyse the age of people who vote for specific political parties and then further their research to understand why people under thirty might vote be more inclined to vote for a left wing party.