According to Dr. Richard Taflinger of Washington State University, the two purposes of research are “to learn something” and “to gather evidence.” Dictionary.com defines research as "a systematic inquiry into a subject in order to discover or revise facts, theories and applications." Research typically begins with an observation, and then curiosity as to why or how an entity or system works follows the observation.
The two basic types of research inform the roles that research plays. According to California State University, Fresno, Department of Psychology, there is applied research and basic research. Basic research is descriptive. There are also issues of external validity within basic research. It is difficult to take a research finding and apply it to the real world. Applied research has application outside of the laboratory. It addresses issues or systems in the real world and seeks to examine or find answers to these issues. In this respect, the role of research depends upon the type of research.
The purpose of an individual research project is a part of the research design. According to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, the purpose statement in a research proposal lays the foundation for the logic behind the research and the personal reason to conduct the research. This includes a gap in the current literature and previous experience in the field.