Pure research, which is also known as basic or fundamental research, is conducted without a specific goal in mind, whereas applied research is carried out with the goal of solving a problem or answering a specific question. Pure research is more exploratory in nature.
Pure research is driven by interest or curiosity in the relationships between two or more variables. When an individual is interested in learning simply for learning's sake, she is conducting pure research. For example, someone interested in financial markets and investor behavior may watch the stock market to gain a better understanding of how markets move. This type of research is generally not economically profitable, but it may provide a catalyst for applied research that leads to future breakthroughs.
Applied research is used to solve a specific, practical problem of an individual or group. This type of research is used in a wide number of fields, including medicine, education, agriculture and technology. Examples of applied research include studying the behavior of children to determine the effectiveness of various interventions, looking into the relationship between genetics and cancer, or testing the waters of a river to determine what types of contaminants are making their way into a municipal water supply.