The word "research" is derived from the Latin word meaning "to know."  Research is about answering questions, such as:
 What do I want to know?
 How do I want to gain knowledge?
 Why do I want to know it?

Various ways of knowing:
 -traditional, authoritarian, ideology, legal precedent, universal/absolute truths, myths
 -reason, formal logic
 -affect, intuition, intra-personal processes, "common sense"
 -altered consciousness, revelation, grace
 -empirical research

Research can be seen as:
 -a group of assumptions; a strategy for knowing; a belief system about evidence;
 -an established body of knowledge;
 -a collection of methods, tools, and techniques
 -a purposeful or functional activity
 -a process carried on by people
Components of research as a belief system
 1.  Nature is orderly and regular
 2.  We can know nature
 3.  Knowledge is better than ignorance
 4.  All natural phenomena have natural causes
 5.  Nothing is self evident, but must be verified or falsified
 6.  Knowledge is derived from observation of nature

As an established body of knowledge, research is the accumulation of evidence by researchers over time.  It provides a background against which claims for knowledge can be evaluated, and provides a way for researchers to communicate and compare their findings.

Research as a collection of methods, tools, and techniques forms the basis for most research texts and courses in research; its methods are what set it apart from other ways of acquiring knowledge.

As a purposeful or functional activity, research must justify the resources it consumes to accomplish its purposes.

When research is seen as a process carried on by people, questions can be asked, such as:
 where do research topics come from?
 where is research done?
 who does research?
 who uses research?
 how is it shared?
 how is it funded?

 When we use empirical research, we assume that it will yield more reliable and valid information about complex natural phenomena, including humanity.  Empirical research is concerned with describing, explaining, and predicting natural phenomena.  However, its understanding will always be partial, incomplete, and probabilistic.  And some questions cannot be answered by this process.

 Empirical research is guided by evidence obtained in systematic and controlled observations.  It is a means of decreasing ignorance about natural phenomena.  Social sciences attempt to use the same approaches and methods as the physical sciences, but they fail to reach the same level of objectivity because it is more difficult to come to inter-subjective agreement about the object of study.

 Objectivity is agreement among expert judges on what is observed.  Objectivity is a procedure or a method.  It does not refer to qualities or characteristics of a person doing research.  An objective test does not mean that the test itself is unbiased, but that nearly anyone could arrive at the same score using the test as a measuring device.  Objectivity also refers to the controlled experimental situation which produces replicable findings.
 Research, as a public enterprise, is unique among social activities in its insistence on objectivity--which is difficult given human characteristics and limitations.  Objectivity has little importance in and of itself, but it gives research its special character because it provides more trustworthy explanations of natural phenomena than other ways of knowing.  Objectivity is always a matter of degree, but it is indispensable.  It protects research from the personal biases of researchers, by allowing replication and generally producing the same or similar results.  The use of technology has increased the agreement among expert judgement because machines are less likely than people to be affected by the process of observation itself.

 Criticisms of empirical research include the humanistic critique against the practice of objectivity, which makes the research process abstract, remote, and cold.  It ignores human values and needs.  The knowledge gained is only partial and reductionistic.  It ignores intuition and spiritual values.

 Other arguments include the critique that objectivism is impossible, since we are ruled by our values, motives, history, and cultural context.  Research can become a tool for those in power.  Researchers don't stop to consider the ends to which their research could be put.

 Some argue that humans, groups, and organizations cannot be measured; they are wholes that cannot be reduced to quantitative parts.  Or, anything that can be measured by numbers is only trivial.  Or, statistical significance is not the same as real meaning.

 However, researchers argue that there are no absolute truths, only relatively more or less reliable and valid knowledge.  Objective procedures increase the probability of obtaining more valid and more reliable knowledge.  While people are not objective, research can be made more objective by following the rules of objectivity.  These include:

 -an open atmosphere of critical inquiry; the good researcher is a self-critic
 -only testable statements are relevant; findings must be replicable
 -faith in the scientific method, tempered by skepticism
  -belief that most natural phenomena can be understood (even if only in a limited and probabilistic manner);
  -complete honesty in the research process; what evidence is there against your hypothesis?