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Public Relations: Academic and Applied Research

A guide to research in the field of public relations

Academic Research

  • Also called Scholarship
  • Questions tend to be more conceptual
  • Seeks to add to the larger "body of knowledge"
  • Tends to be theoretically focused
  • Findings are usually made public
  • Results usually spur questions and ideas for future research
  • Evaluated through peer review by academic discipline standards
  • Shared through scholarly journals, academic conference presentations and other publications (e.g., books)

Shared Characteristics

Examples of academic and applied research have the following characteristics in common:

  • Phenomenon observed
  • Question(s) asked
  • Problem(s) established
  • Draws upon larger research community
  • Seeks to legitimize the field and profession
  • Employs accepted research methods (i.e., rigorous scientific methods)
  • Results yield new information/knowledge
  • Should adhere to ethical standards

Applied Research

  • Also called Professional Research
  • Problems tend to be more practical
  • Seeks to find solutions to immediate problems and issues
  • Tends to be organizationally focused
  • Findings are usually kept private
  • Results are usually used internally to make decisions and establish strategy
  • Evaluated by client-organization and/or industry standards
  • Shared primarily through internal reports with those who need the results; may also be shared more broadly through professional conferences and trade/industry publications (e.g., case studies, articles, etc.)