Skip to 0 minutes and 5 secondsHow does research come about? Well it begins - as many things do - with curiosity; with a question, with someone willing to ask that question, and with someone willing to discover the answer. But where that curiosity comes from is another matter. It can stem from many areas, from personal experience or professional interest, from a casual conversation to years of work, from a moment of wonder to a lifetime of questioning. Whatever the point of inspiration, or maybe just sheer perspiration, research is essential for creating new technology, for developing policy, for debating ethics, advising practise, and changing the shape of academic subjects in the future.

Skip to 0 minutes and 50 secondsResearch defines what we use as stable knowledge for any given subject, and therefore what we all learn at school and university. Stable knowledge can best be described as the stuff of textbooks. It's the information we already have on a topic of choice. This could be as varied as quantitative data like verified measurements or natural laws. But it's always knowledge which has been accepted to a greater or lesser extent by the community at large. But research is a complex and evolving process. It can't be carried out in isolation and it'll often be a haphazard journey with many starts, stops and direction changes along the way.

Skip to 1 minute and 30 secondsOne person from one discipline can't tackle a whole subject without influence or input from others in different subjects. They bring with them opinions, ideas and work which enhances and widens the field of research. The more people that are involved in developing and answering a research question, the more valid that question becomes. If a question is relevant across multiple disciplines, then it becomes even more important. It also helps if the question is one many people want answering.

Skip to 2 minutes and 3 secondsResearch is also subject to a great deal of outside influence; government policy, technological innovations, new appointments, changes in funding and world events which can all affect, inform and alter the trajectory of a project and researchers must learn to adapt their work as they go. These influences may be positive, they may be negative, but they can't be ignored. When the results come in, the research needs to be communicated to particular audiences. They need to be interpreted in the language of particular subjects and disciplines. Communication is key at this point, otherwise researchers may as well just be talking to themselves. Above all else, the key to successful research is adaptability. It's not being stuck in traditional structures or hierarchies.

Skip to 2 minutes and 56 secondsAnd often the best research questions arise from the collaborations that are formed by accidental meetings, unexpected conversations, the enthusiasm of colleagues and the interest of strangers. You have to accept a little bit of chaos into the rigours of study, and embrace knowledge and help from all sides.

How does research happen?

University research is crucial for addressing the problems of 10bn.

In this video, we’ll introduce you to research; what is it? How does it happen? Where does it take place?

Share this video:

This video is from the free online course:

Population 10 Billion: Researching Global Issues

The University of Sheffield

Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join: