Graduate School Strategies: What is Academic Research?

Kathryn Starke
Kathryn Starke
Professional development expert and National Urban Literacy Consultant; M.A. in Literacy and Culture
A female student sits surrounded by books and her laptop, doing research.

What is Academic Research?

Academic research is a systematic approach to increase knowledge on a particular subject matter or topic. The deep exploration and study of a specific topic found through academic research are often used to explain particular facts, misconceptions, and opinions of a relevant topic about a field of study.

A person’s academic research is most often associated with a master’s degree, doctoral program, or professional contribution to journals, conferences, or internships.

Why is Academic Research Important in Graduate School?

Academic research is essential in graduate school because it is often the culminating project or final paper submitted to support a candidate’s complete understanding of a topic within a graduate program. The actual academic research usually takes a year or more to complete in addition to a two-year to five-year time period in an in-person or online program, depending on the field of study and amount of coursework required.

Academic research often indicates or proves that a candidate is qualified to be a leader in their field of study while also representing the graduate school. Academic research is an in-depth critical analysis of statistics, observations, literature, case studies, and theories closely related to a graduate school candidate’s professional interests and career path.

More often than not, the academic research conducted in graduate school is later published in a trade publication or periodical. It can also be submitted and used as a research-based presentation at a professional trade or industry conference. Sometimes, it is even used later to write and publish a book on the subject matter. In this instance, graduate school is the driving force behind academic research.

How Do I Know if Something is Credible?

Several factors can be used to determine if academic research is credible. The first question to ask is why the study was chosen in the first place to fully examine. Then, ask a variety of inquiry-based questions to support the reason behind the research:

  • What is the purpose of the research?
  • Why was this research so important to conduct?
  • How relevant is this research?

It is important to identify the credentials of the person conducting the research, what school is backing or supporting the academic research, and if any particular organization or institution funds the research.

The sample size of the case study and the data collected are important to review for credibility in addition to understanding the measures and said outcomes of the conducted research. Finally, peer-reviewed and trusted resources are a good indicator of credible sources. 

Academic Research Tips: How to Find Trustworthy Research

When an individual is completing the actual research, it is imperative to ensure that trustworthy research is available to help create a substantial research paper to present. One of the best ways to do this is to be skeptical about everything you read. The tips to finding trustworthy research are similar to determining if something is indeed credible. Peer-reviewed papers and highly ranked trusted institutions and organizations often produce and publish the most trustworthy research.

Reviewing the identity of the researcher conducting the academic research and their credentials of the person conducting the research is vital to locate trustworthy research. Find out if a particular school, organization, or institution is backing, supporting, or funding the academic research.

Depending on the industry, a various institutions and organizations are nationally and internationally recognized as trustworthy research sources in their field. Check the sources cited by the author of the research as well. In addition to reviews, check if the research received any awards, accolades, testimonials, or endorsements.

Visit a university library, public library, or academic research library to begin the research process. Google Scholar is an online search that is primarily focused on housing academic journals, articles, and publications on a particular subject matter. Finding trustworthy research begins by finding and selecting relevant articles, journals, and publications that address the topic a student or candidate is researching.

It is recommended that sources published within the past ten years are the most reliable and relevant materials for up-to-date and current research. An exception would be when you are looking for historical pedagogy or theories to support the present-day research.

Once you find, read, and critically analyze the research that you have found, it is time to use it effectively to share and present your research. Organize and communicate information in a manner that allows you to write and express your research efficiently. Finally, you present and defend your research to your committee within the graduate program.

The ultimate goal of academic research is to make an impact, create a solution to a problem, or better a system within your industry or organization. When academic research can be implemented for a positive outcome, the purpose of completing the academic research in the first place is validated.

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