In the context of independent consulting and creative work, research is small-scale, non-academic, and typically qualitative as opposed to quantitative. Thematically, it’s both specific and general. Its primary goals include reducing client risk around making decisions and generating new options/outputs. It is both an activity – materials-gathering – and a type of structured thinking.
"The materials which must be gathered are of two kinds: they are specific and they are general."
"This, then, is the first step in the technique of producing ideas: the gathering of materials. Part of it, you will see, is a current job and part of it is a life-long job."
- James Wood Young
"Research thinking is any amount of weakly structured thinking that has a non-zero chance of leading on to novel outputs, whether it takes five minutes or fifty years to get there."
- Venkatesh Rao
"Innovation research is based on achieving a profound understanding of people's business problems and thereby generating new options and creating narrative richness around solutions" (this is my very liberal paraphrase)
- Philip Morgan