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Applied Research for Students

What is Applied Research?

Applied research produces results that actively try to solve a real-world problem. The focus is on an actionable outcome.


  • How can nurses improve their basic wound care?
  • How can early childhood settings better educate children about racial injustice?
  • How can local long term care facilities encourage people with arthritis to attend the aquatic therapy program?
  • How can XYZ night safety phone app appeal more to new college students to increase downloads of the app?

As students, the majority of research you may have done up until now is basic research (also called "pure" or "fundamental" research). 

Basic / Pure research is different from applied research. It is used to expand theoretical knowledge on a topic. 


  • How did South Sudan respond to the cholera outbreak?
  • What do early childhood settings teach about racial injustice?
  • How effective is aquatic therapy in reducing the pain and immobility associated with arthritis?
  • How does alcohol and drug use on campus affect the safety of college students?

When you take on an applied research project, the focus of your question and answer is more practical. 

Five-Step Framework for the Applied Research Process

Clarify your research focus

  • Why am I doing this research? (i.e. problem, need, opportunity) 
  • What is the goal of this research?

Scan existing information

  • What is known about this situation?
  • What don't we know about this situation?
  • What questions do I need to answer to meet the research goal?

Plan your research tasks and methods

  • What information do I need?
  • How will I get it in order to reach my research goals?

Collect, analyze and interpret data

  • How do I collect data with maximum efficiency and effectiveness?
  • How do I make sense of the data?
  • How do I draw practical recommendations for the client?
  • How do I best organize the information?

Share your work

  • How do I present, revise, and submit my findings?

from p.18 of PDF 

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