What’s the Difference Between “Searching” and “Researching?”

The words search and research look very similar. What’s the difference between the two? Let’s find out.

The Re- Prefix

In English, the prefix re- usually means to repeat, or do something again. Consider the following word pairs:

  • do and redo
  • create and recreate
  • publish and republish

However, not all English verbs follow this pattern. For example, with certain words, it is more common to add again to the end of the word:

  • To fly and fly again (refly is not a word)
  • To begin and begin again (rebegin is not a word)

So, Research Means to Search Again?

Not quite. To search and to research are different verbs with slightly different meanings.

One searches to find something or someone. It is mostly interchangeable with the verb to look for, although to search is often used to imply that more effort was expended. For example:

Mary quickly looked for Rob in the crowd, but couldn’t find him.

Jack searched for Rob in the crowd and finally found him.

The verb search almost always implies that there is a specific thing to be found. That is, there is an end goal in mind.

I did a Google search for new apartments in Brooklyn.

John searched for Lee at the party.

Anne is searching for a co-founder for her startup.

Research

To research has a slightly different meaning than to search. Put simply, to research is to search systematically. Researching for [something] is more involved, systematic, and thorough than searching for [something.]

A more detailed definition of to research is:

…the systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions.

So, you would search on Google for the solution to a simple programming problem, but you would research how to create a new programming language (a lengthy and difficult task.)

Divya researched the competition.

Jacques is researching new cancer treatments at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Our market research indicates that women between the ages of 25 and 40 use our product the most.

Academia

As a side note, the primary activity of academics at universities is called research. Academics conduct research in their specific field. The results (papers, essays, etc.) of their research activity is also called research [a noun].

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