✨What’s the difference between basic and applied research?

This article discusses the contrasting nature of basic and applied research. Basic research aims to expand theoretical knowledge, while applied research focuses on practical problem-solving.

✨What’s the difference between basic and applied research?

Written by: Avisikta Sinha

It is becoming more and more important to understand the underlying workings of research in the quickly changing world of scientific and technological innovation. Knowing the distinction between applied and basic research can give you important insights into how information is created and used, whether you're a seasoned academic, a professional in the field, or just a curious person.  Although these two types of study have different goals and approaches, they frequently function as two sides of the same coin, each with its own special advantages and difficulties. This article provides insights into the complex world of research, ideal for anyone who has ever wondered which kind of study to use for a project or how fundamental ideas gained from foundational studies generate practical implementations.


Basis of Difference

Basic Research 

Applied Research


Focuses on advancing knowledge

Seeks solutions to specific problems, often driven by client needs

Knowledge Development

Expands existing knowledge and makes prediction

Discovers new information, benefiting from foundational insights provided by basic research.


Theoretical, contributing to the development of theories.

Practical, providing solutions to real-world problems.


Primarily contributes to societal knowledge.

Often leads to commercial gain, creating new products


Universal, applying to various concepts.

Specific, focusing on solving particular issues.

Basic Research: Digging into the Unknown

Basic research is like exploring unknown territories just for the sake of figuring things out. Imagine scientists peering through microscopes or working with complex equations, not because they have a specific goal in mind, but because they're curious about how things work. It's like a kid exploring a forest without knowing what they'll find but excited about discovering something new.

Characteristics of Basic Research:

  1. Focuses on theoretical concepts and fundamental principles.
  2. Seeks to explore and discover new knowledge.
  3. Explores uncharted areas of study and expands the boundaries of understanding.
  4. Often needs immediate practical applications but provides a foundation for future research and innovation.

Methodology in Basic Research:

  1. Emphasizes theoretical frameworks and hypothesis testing.
  2. Focuses on controlled experiments, theoretical modeling, and data analysis.
  3. Prioritizes scientific rigor, reproducibility, and unbiased inquiry.
  4. Seeks to contribute to the existing body of knowledge.


  1. Gaining an understanding of living systems and the environment 
  2. Gathering information that can help society prepare for the future 
  3. Expanding knowledge that can lead to medical advances 
  4. Providing a foundation for applied research

Applied Research: Getting Practical

On the flip side, applied research is about solving real-world problems. Picture a team of scientists and engineers working to create new technologies or improve everyday things. It's not about curiosity; it's about making things work better, like a doctor using medical knowledge to help a patient. Applied research is our way of using what we know to make life easier.

Characteristics of Applied Research:

  1. Focuses on specific practical goals and immediate applications.
  2. Addresses practical issues faced by industries, organizations, or communities.
  3. Utilizes existing theories and knowledge to create practical solutions.
  4. Emphasizes collaboration with stakeholders and application of findings.

Methodology in Applied Research:

  1. Employs various research methods, including surveys, experiments, case studies, and field observations.
  2. Focuses on gathering data directly from real-world settings.
  3. Emphasizes practicality, relevance, and the applicability of findings.
  4. Prioritizes problem-solving and practical outcomes.


  1. Designing new products and services
  2. Creating new objectives 
  3. Providing unbiased data through the testing of verifiable evidence

Which one is better - Basic or Applied Research?

The debate over the superiority of basic research versus applied research revolves around their distinct aims and methods. Basic research aims to generate new knowledge and comprehend fundamental principles without an immediate application, often having a profound long-term impact. Examples include the discovery of DNA's structure and the development of quantum mechanics. In contrast, applied research focuses on solving immediate problems, yielding more immediately visible impacts, such as the creation of COVID-19 vaccines or energy-efficient technologies. The contention about applied research's narrow focus is nuanced, as it often relies on knowledge from basic research. While basic research is prevalent in fields like sociology, biology, astronomy, philosophy, and theology, applied research gains favor from governments and industries due to its potential for practical applications and monetary benefits.

The two types of research are not mutually exclusive; they often complement each other, with applied research occasionally leading to unexpected knowledge and basic research inspiring unforeseen practical applications.

How do you make the choice between Basic and Applied Research?

To determine when to use basic research vs. applied research, consider your goals. Basic research is suitable for answering universal, theoretical questions and expanding existing knowledge. It aims to create predictions. On the other hand, applied research is beneficial when seeking solutions to specific problems. It is effective for developing new technologies and enhancing existing systems. Choose the type of research based on whether you aim to expand existing knowledge or find entirely new knowledge to address a problem.

Cover photo by: Lukas