What Is Research?

Tip Sheets

When most people are asked about research, they think of scientific or medical research –and with good reason. Right now, there are more than 40,000 medical research studies underway. Those that are successful will result in new medications or devices that could dramatically improve the way we treat certain diseases or conditions.

But research takes other forms, too. Some studies use questionnaires, interviews, or other types of surveys to gather information about habits, opinions, and beliefs. Other studies observe the way people interact with one another or react to certain situations, providing new insights into human behavior.

What do all forms of research have in common? All seek knowledge for the public good. Many would not be possible without human participants.

Benefits and risks

One way or another, all of us have benefited from research. The vaccines that help prevent diseases and the medications that help manage diabetes or control blood pressure are just a few examples of scientific discoveries that resulted from research. Many of the psychological and social support services that we routinely provide to victims of trauma and disaster also were developed in response to research findings.

It’s important to note, however, that research is experimental, and that means it involves risk. The federal government requires researchers to inform participants about the risks involved – and to do everything possible to minimize those risks. Even so, risk can never be completely avoided.

That’s one reason organizations seek AAHRPP accreditation. AAHRPP’s emphasis on ethical standards and practices helps reduce the risk to research participants. By attaining accreditation, organizations send a strong message that they are committed to conducting high quality research and that protecting participants is a top priority.