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A research project is defined as "creative and methodical labour done with the goal of increasing the reservoir of knowledge." Collection, organising, and analysis of information are all necessary steps in increasing knowledge of a subject or problem. Occasionally, a research endeavour will represent an extension of previous work in the area. The validity of instruments, methods, and experiments may be tested via the replication of parts of previous projects or the replication of the project as a whole.

Basic research (as opposed to applied research) has as its main goals the recording, discovery, interpretation, and the research and development (R&D) of techniques and systems for the progress of human knowledge, as well as the creation of new methods and systems. In the humanities and sciences, approaches to study are based on a set of epistemologies that differ significantly both within and across disciplines. There are several forms of research: scientific, humanities, artistic, economic, social, business, marketing, practitioner research, life, technical, and so on. There are many different types of research. Meta-research is a scientific examination of research methods that is conducted in a scientific setting.

The word research is derived from the Middle French word "recherche," which means "to go about seeking." The term "recherche" itself is derived from the Old French word "recerchier," which is a compound word formed by combining the prefix "re-" and the suffix "cerchier" or "sercher," which means'search.' The word was first used in print in 1577, according to historical records.