Applied vs. Basic Research

The primary purpose of the study in question is to “compare adolescent and adult Deliberate Self-Harm (DSH) patients regarding factors contributing to the suicidal act.”  There were several dimensions addressed, including intentions, antecedents, depression, hopelessness, self-esteem, and other contributing factors.  (Hjelmeland & Grøholt, 2005, p. 64)

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Although “the distinction between basic and applied research is more accurately described as a continuum,” I believe this particular article favors the applied method.  (Cozby, 2009, p. 20)  Specifically, this research has practical application in the accurate diagnosis of individuals with DSH.  In contrast, basic research would attempt to “address theoretical issues concerning phenomena such as cognition, emotion, motivation, learning, psychobiology, personality development, and social behavior.”  (Cozby, 2009, p. 10)

The best clue we can use to differentiate between applied and basic research is to determine if practical implications can be envisioned into the foreseeable future.  (Cozby, 2009, p. 13)  Another possible clue is if the research attempts to address, explain, or clarify a perceived problem… like DSH for example… in which case the research type is probably applied instead of basic.  Finally, the underlying ‘purpose’ of the research can clue us into its origins.  For example, basic research arises out of curiosity, where applied research is typically born out of basic research and directly applied to an issue.  So, another potential clue we can use to identify applied research is to see if it references basic research for foundational support.


Cozby, P. C. (2009). Methods in behavioral research (10th ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill.

Hjelmeland, H., & Grøholt, B. (2005). A comparative study of young and adult deliberate self-harm patients. Crisis: The Journal of Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention, 26(2), 64-72. doi: 10.1027/0227-5910.26.2.64

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