Theoretical research is conducted in order to gather information on any subject and increase our understanding of it. The knowledge thus collected is not used for something in particular, because the important thing about this type of research is, precisely, to expand knowledge.
Theoretical research can be carried out by all kinds of professionals: from biologists, chemists, engineers, and architects to philosophers, writers, sociologists, historians, etc. No matter the professional area, theoretical research is the basis that guides subsequent innovations.
It seeks to answer fundamental questions for human beings, and that is why this type of research is common to all areas of knowledge.
The researcher starts from the premise that we must understand the world around us, and for this, he begins with a hypothesis and the test by designing various experiments, which will serve to develop new theories. This is what is known as the scientific method.
Characteristics of the theoretical research
There are several factors that characterize theoretical research.
Answer the questions “what?”, “Why?” or as?”
This is how you begin a theoretical investigation, to answer these seemingly simple questions.
Thus, if you want to answer “why is the earth round?”, For example, you will go to previous theories and all the accumulated knowledge on this topic to explain why the earth is round, adding the elaboration of various tests that confirm or refute what has been said.
Human curiosity is the primary impulse of all theoretical research. Whoever wanders is because he wants answers. And that is what theoretical research seeks.
No commercial goals
Another of its characteristics is that its objectives are not applicable, commercially or in any other way. In other words, you don’t need the app in real life.
Its purpose is not to innovate or solve
A scientific investigation does not solve practical problems or make inventions. Just give information on the subject. Plentiful, relevant, and deep information, but nothing more.
It is the basis for further research
Undoubtedly, to carry out another type of research, researchers will have to rely on previous theoretical investigations, which will provide precisely the theoretical framework for the development of their ideas.
That is why it should be noted that any investigation, whatever it may be, begins by being theoretical.
Theoretical research methodology
The methodology is the action plan that the researcher applies when investigating. It is usually based on the scientific method, which is based on the observation, measurement, experimentation, and formulation of hypotheses, seeking their analysis or modification.
Reproducibility and repeatability and falsifiability are also important, although not all areas of knowledge work with the same demands. A philosophical or theoretical physics investigation will not require experimentation, for example, as an investigation on chemistry does.
Reproducibility and repeatability are the ability of an experiment to be repeated or replicated by other researchers; falsifiability, on the other hand, is the possibility that a theory has of being refuted.
In the social and human sciences, such as history, literature, or philosophy, reproducibility and repeatability cannot be present in methodology, and its methods are fundamentally discursive.
That is why there are different scientific methods that are applied to different areas of knowledge. Let’s look at the main steps of the scientific method.
Through observation, any element that you want to explain can be detected. It serves to delimit the research area.
The hypothesis is the formulation of the idea, through which we can explain what we observe.
Through experimentation, hypotheses are tested or not. These experiments vary from discipline to discipline.
When a theory is formulated it is because we think that through it the hypotheses of higher probability can be explained.
Conclusions are the insights we come to through research.
However, in the social sciences, there is a different methodology, although observation and experimentation are equally applied. Surveys, documentation, and statistical analysis are included in it.
It is a procedure by which the researcher collects data with a questionnaire designed according to the topic. Neither the environment nor the phenomenon where the surveys are collected is modified, in order to achieve the most faithful results possible.
National censuses are a classic survey, in which researchers go to the homes of respondents and view the home and other socioeconomic data in situ.
Documentation is an auxiliary and instrumental technique that serves to inform the researcher on the subject. It means going to libraries or specialized institutes, such as documentation centers, and reviewing the existing bibliography.
With the documentation, antecedents of the investigated topic are obtained, and the knowledge of other investigations is carried out. This step is important because this way it is known if similar investigations were previously carried out, and what the results were.
Statistics is a branch of mathematics that studies random processes and variability and follows the laws of probability. It is widely used in sociological and linguistic research (how many speakers of regional dialects there are in a country, for example).
Other considerations on the methodology
According to each science, the choice of a methodology is crucial, and it legitimizes the results obtained in the research.
When the methodology is applied correctly, that is, when the steps previously outlined in the research work are followed, the researcher will achieve greater coherence. This does not mean that the results agree with what is expected.
Examples of theoretical research
Example 1: research on hemp properties
A theoretical investigation on the medicinal properties of hemp. The active principles of the plant are isolated and analyzed, and by analyzing their components it is possible to know what they contain and if they can potentially serve as a drug. Theoretical research definition
Example 2: linguistics
Carry out an investigation to find out how many people speak Basque in the Basque Country. Through surveys, it is possible to know how many native Basque speakers there are and how many speakers there are of Basque as a second language.
Example 3: philosophy
A theoretical investigation on politics and ethics in the works of Hanna Arendt.