Original research is research that is not based exclusively on the review, the summary, or the synthesis of earlier publications on the subject of research. Original research produces new knowledge, in contrast to presenting existing knowledge in new forms, for example, in new arrangements, classifications, or summaries. Insofar as all research builds on new and recurrent observations examined in the light of previously accepted beliefs, originality in research is a matter of degree and not an absolute quality.
Boundaries of original research
The boundary between original research and Compilation may be blurred. For example, classification may be as non-original as simply putting things in alphabetical order. On the other hand, a new classification may provide further insights into the nature of the subject and lead to predictions and discovery. A classical example is Mendeleev's periodic table of chemical elements. Often this boundary leads to unjust discrimination.
Forms of original research
Original research can take a number of forms, depending on the discipline to which it pertains.
In experimental work, original research typically and involves direct or indirect observation of the researched subject, e.g., in the laboratory or in the field, documents the methodology, results, and conclusions of an experiment or set of experiments, or offers a novel interpretation of previous results.
In analytical work, there are typically some new (for example) mathematical results produced, or a new way of approaching an existing problem. In some subjects which do not typically carry out experimentation or analysis of this kind, the originality is in the particular way existing understanding is changed or re-interpreted based on the outcome of the work of the researcher.
Relation to Wikipedia
The concept has been popularized on the internet by Wikipedia's No Original Research policy. Since then, Wikipedia editors and deletionists have cut more and more original research from Wikipedia, having it refuge from the one central "knowledge of the human race" that slowly started accepting less and less "accepted" knowledge, to thousands other sites as free as Wikipedia, but more lenient on their acceptance policies.
Along with Wikipedia, Wikinfo and other sites erroneously and unintentionally simplified in the collective consciousness the meaning of "original research" into "Not from Wikipedia", in the same way that in the early days - even until today in some cases - for many, wiki is still synonymous with Wikipedia. This, while understandable, is wrong, as in a broader sense, as much as it tries to deny it and pull it under the cover, Wikipedia itself is a giant example of original research. The Wikipedia system had to adapt from the paper encyclopedias that preceded it, and under the guise of "wanting to adapt it to an online world-wide effort", made rules and styles that departed much from its predecessors. One can only look at its Manual of Style to see much originality in comparison to Encyclopedias of the old. This is because most of the formatting of the rules of Wikipedia was written by a majority of unaccredited, non-high level reviewed individuals, each pitching in with a point or a dot or a form of expressing, thus constituting "original research". Citizendium and Wikia for example have proven that an online encyclopedia on a matter can be made on various tones, all of whom can succesfully claim to adhere to the old Encyclopedic style.
The (original) goal of Wikipedia of entire human knowledge allowed people across the world to add their own knowledge on a subject, but then it got simplified or hijacked into adding "sourced material". Despite this, many articles or chunks of information on Wikipedia are either not sourced and let there, as removing half the content of Wikipedia may prove disastrous, and there is the general acceptance that said information is accurate.
On the wikis that accept original research, they realise they must adapt Wikipedia's other rules that are tangled on Wikipedia's NOR policy. For example, many wikis that accept original research are forced (or glad, for example Deletionpedia) to drop most of Wikipedia's other rules, like Verifiability or quoting sources. The idea is that if it's original research, that person does it there and then, using that wiki as a platform itself for his or her statements. Others just leave users to edit under the GNU Free Documentation License, add content that is available under that license from other places, and let the GNU sort it out. Wikinfo tries to use a system where someone who has made a claim on an article should cite himself. Other sites would find this method hard to enforce, encourage or maintain, therefore it's relative unique to Wikinfo for the time being.
- Adapted from the Wikipedia article, "Original_research" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Original_research, used under the GNU Free Documentation License.
- Personal observations of A.A.