What is the Difference Between Formal and Informal Research

The main difference between formal and informal research is that formal research uses scientific methods, and we can apply its findings to a larger group. Whereas, informal research uses nonscientific methods, and we can apply its findings only to a smaller group.

Research involves collecting data and information on a particular topic. Moreover, we can categorize research into two broad categories as formal research and informal research. Before conducting a research study, it’s always important to decide how formal or rigorous your study is going to be.

Key Areas Covered

1. What is Formal Research
     – Definition, Features
2. What is Informal Research
     – Definition, Features
3. Difference Between Formal and Informal Research
     – Comparison of Key Differences

Key Terms

Informal Research, Formal Research

Difference Between Formal and Informal Research - Comparison Summary

What is Formal Research

Formal research is a type of research study conducted using a systematic approach and scientific methods. A formal research study typically involves several components: abstract, introduction, literature review, research design and method, results and analysis, conclusion, bibliography. All in all, formal research is more scientific in nature than informal research and aims to discover new information or solve a problem. It always uses up to date, reliable sources. Moreover, the sources of information used in research are also complied using a reference system.

Formal vs Informal Research

Researchers usually begin a formal research study with a hypothesis; then, they test this hypothesis rigorously. They also explore and analyze the literature already available on their research subject. This allows them to study the research subject from multiple perspectives, acknowledging different problems that need to be solved. In comparison to informal research, formal research tends to be objective or unbiased. This mainly happens because formal research uses scientific methods which involve objective information. If the research involves participants, for example, in surveys or interviews, the researcher has to obtain their written consent first. Furthermore, we can apply the findings from formal research to a larger audience. 

What is Informal Research

Informal research is the use of nonscientific methods to gather and analyze data. Since the research uses nonscientific methods, its finding cannot be applied to a wider audience. Most of us conduct informal research on a regular basis. For example, conducting a simple survey, informal interviews with a target audience, seeking opinions of colleagues, searching through company files, etc. are all nonscientific methods of gathering data and are therefore forms of informal research.

Compare Formal and Informal Research

Informal research does not take much time or effort. This usually involves just looking through some information or gathering some data. For example, suppose you are going to buy a new laptop. You will ask for the opinions of your colleagues and may look through some websites and reviews to know more information about laptop brands. Your decision here will be based on informal research. But it’s important to know this information may be subjective. Moreover, as this is an informal research, you might also not worry about the source of information. 

Difference Between Formal and Informal Research

Definition

Formal research is a type of research study conducted using a systematic approach and scientific methods while informal research is the use of nonscientific methods to gather and analyze data.

Methods

While formal research uses scientific methods, informal research uses nonscientific methods

Time and Effort

Informal research takes less time and effort than formal research.

Objectivity

Formal research tends to be more objective or unbiased than informal research.

Sources

It’s necessary to list the sources of information in a formal research, but informal research does not follow this practice.

Application of Findings

Findings of formal research can be applied to a larger group, whereas findings of informal research can be applied only to a smaller group.

Conclusion

Formal research is a type of research study conducted using a systematic approach and scientific methods, while informal research is the use of nonscientific methods to gather and analyze data. Moreover, formal research tends to be more objective or unbiased than informal research. Thus, this is the main difference between formal and informal research.

Reference:

1. “3.1: Choosing a Research Methodology.” Professional Communications, ECampus Pressbooks, 1 Sept. 2019.
2. Johnson, Ryan. “Take a Closer Look at Research Types and Reporting.” Two Rivers Marketing.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Online Survey Icon or logo” By Tungilik – Own work (CC0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “Research Scene Vector” By Videoplasty.com (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Commons Wikimedia

About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.

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