If you are conducting research, do you say that you are conducting research “on” a subject or “in” a subject? Prepositions often confuse people, so we’ll be answering that question here today.
Research On or In – Which Is Correct?
Both “research on” and “research in” are correct in the right contexts. You can conduct research “in” a field of study, but you conduct research “on” a particular subject. This means both “on” and “in” are grammatically correct as long as you use them appropriately.
Don’t you just love the vague aspects of English? The truth is, “research” can be followed up by many prepositions. They can all be correct, as long as you use them in the right context. As far as “on” or “in” are concerned, the correct preposition depends on the scope of the research.
Let’s look at some examples:
- Diane conducts research in astronomy.
- Diane conducts research on black holes.
The distinction here is the difference between a field of study and a subject that is being studied. You can conduct research “in” a field of study, but you cannot conduct research “in” a subject. For example, consider this sentence:
- Diane conducts research in black holes.
Obviously, that doesn’t sound right at all. That would imply that Diane physically conducts research within black holes. That’s why she can conduct research “on” black holes”, not “in them”. However, when it comes to field of study, you can say “on” or “in”.
That’s because some things are a field of study, but also a standalone subject. For example, “astronomy” is a field of science that includes many things, such as planetary orbits, stars, and black holes. But you can also study the subject of astronomy as a whole, instead of something that falls under its umbrella.
The main point is to remember the following: you can conduct research “in” a field of study, but not “in” a subject. You can conduct research “on” a subject, or a field of study if it is a subject itself.
You can conduct research “on” a subject. This is appropriate because “on” specifies that you are “doing” research directly to the subject in question. This is why “research on” is the most common way of saying this. Most anything can be a subject, so it’s often appropriate to say “research on” a subject.
Let’s look at some examples:
- Conducting research on heart failure has been very interesting for me.
- I don’t know why anyone would want to perform research on illnesses.
- Conducting research on various aspects of chemistry is my life’s work.
- Hey, how’s your research on the connection between smoking and lung cancer going?
In all of these examples, research is being done directly to a particular subject. That’s why you would say “research on” in these scenarios.
You can conduct research “in” a field of knowledge, but not “in” a subject. This can be a little confusing because fields of knowledge are also subjects. Not all subjects are fields of study, but all fields of study are subjects. Knowing the difference mostly comes down to how it sounds to say.
Consider these examples:
- Tana is conducting research in the field of sociology.
- For my project, I will be conducting research in the area of chemistry.
- Conducting research in mathematics sounds very tedious.
- I don’t have any interest regarding research in astrology.
In these examples, the thing being researched is a field of study. Thus, you can say that you are doing research “in” those fields.
You can do “research about” things. This phrase is more about what your research is seeking to accomplish, rather than what field or subject you are conducting research on. Consider the following examples:
- My research about the behavior of animals in captivity is going well.
- Conducting research about the link between humans and pets will be exciting.
- Research about how people behave without applied moral standards would be difficult.
- I want you to do research about how black holes really work.
In these sentences, “research about” is used to describe what specifically someone is researching. That said, most people would accept using it to say that you are researching “on” or “in” a field of study or a subject as well.
“Research into” can be used mostly synonymously with all of the other options. You can conduct research “into” a field of study or “into” a subject. That means it can be used in all the same situations as those phrases. For example:
- Vlad is conducting research into the effects of drawing blood.
- Many scientists are conducting research into how dolphins communicate.
- I am conducting research into human nature.
- Research into the potential power of a Yellowstone volcano eruption is frightening.
You can conduct research in, on, into, or about a field of study. However you can only conduct research on, about, or into a subject. Basically, the only thing you need to remember is that you shouldn’t say “research in” a subject.
Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.