Fundamental research, also known as basic research or pure research does not usually generate findings that have immediate applications in a practical level. Fundamental research is driven by curiosity and the desire to expand knowledge in specific research area. This type of research makes a specific contribution to the academic body of knowledge in the research area.
Fundamental studies tend to make generalizations about the phenomenon, and the philosophy of this type of studies can be explained as ‘gathering knowledge for the sake of knowledge’. Fundamental researches mainly aim to answer the questions of why, what or how and they tend to contribute the pool of fundamental knowledge in the research area.
Opposite to fundamental research is applied research that aims to solve specific problems, thus findings of applied research do have immediate practical implications.
Differences between Fundamental and Applied Research
Differences between applied and fundamental research have been specified in a way that fundamental research studies individual cases without generalizing, and recognizes that other variables are in constant change.
Applied research, on the contrary, seeks generalizations and assumes that other variables do not change. The table below summarizes the differences between the two types of research in terms of purpose and context:
|Fundamental research||Applied research|
|Expand knowledge of processes of business and management|
Results in universal principles relating to the process and its relationship to outcomes
Findings of significance and value to society in general
|Improve understanding of particular business or managemtn problem|
Results in solution to problem
New knowledge limited to problem
Findings of practical relevance and value to manager(s) in organization(s)
|Undertaken by people based in universities|
Choice of topic and objectives determined by the researcher
Flexible time scales
|Undertaken by people based in a variety of settings including organizations and universities|
Objectives negotiated with originator
Tight time scales
Differences between fundamental and applied research
It is important to note that although fundamental studies do not pursue immediate commercial objectives, nevertheless, findings of fundamental studies may result in innovations, as well as, generating solutions to practical problems. For example, a study entitled “A critical assessment of the role of organizational culture in facilitating management-employee communications” is a fundamental study, but findings of this study may be used to increase the levels of effectiveness of management-employee communications, thus resulting in practical implications.
Examples of Fundamental Research
The following are examples for fundamental researches in business:
- A critical analysis of product placement as an effective marketing strategy
- An investigation into the main elements of brands and branding
- A study of factors impacting each stage of product life cycle
Advantages and Disadvantages of Fundamental Research
Advantages of fundamental research are considered as disadvantages of applied research and vice versa. Fundamental researches are important to expand the pool of knowledge in any discipline. Findings of fundamental studies are usually applicable in a wide range of cases and scenarios. Fundamental studies usually do not have strict deadlines and they are usually driven by the curiosity of the researcher.
At the same time, fundamental studies have disadvantages as well. Findings of this type of studies have little or no practical implications. In other words, fundamental studies do not resolve concrete and specific business problems.
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 Table adapted from Saunders, M., Lewis, P. & Thornhill, A. (2012) “Research Methods for Business Students” 6th edition, Pearson Education Limited