Research is a systematic effort to answer a question through the investigation and analysis of facts and their interrelationship. It implies a scientific attitude and the use of scientific method. This is not to assume that research workers, as well as all other people, do not have prejudices and vested interests in the existing social order or some idea of a new social order. As human beings, living in families and communities, they acquire preferences in the natural course of growth and experience, but a reliable researcher is someone who recognizes his tendency to bias regarding any subject, discounts the bias as much as possible, and organizes a plan of investigation which in its structure and necessary procedure is relatively unaffected by the bias of the worker.
This definition of research distinguishes it from recording, tabulating, and publishing data. Tabulation of data involves some previous analysis of the mass of facts and a classification according to similarities and differences. The mere construction of a frequency table may answer some questions. The taking of a case history answers certain simple questions and raises others which are not answered. The casual observation of the administrative organization of a public welfare agency by an experienced person may result in certain inferences regarding its suitability. These activities may be the preliminary steps in setting up or carrying out a research project, but they are less rigorous and single-minded than the research plan. Furthermore, they may be incidental to administration and have no reference to further study. A project for research implies the statement of a question, the answer to which is found by analyzing a variety of facts that are assumed to be related to the issue. Facts which are recorded in case histories and on administrative forms are of first-rate importance in public welfare research, but they may be recorded and filed without further study of them.