Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

Do you do a lot of research in your job?

Have you ever had to investigate something?

Have you heard these two terms used in English?

Understanding the difference between the words “research” and “investigate” can be tough, but they are helpful to know.

We’re going to show you the differences so that you know how to use each one in conversation.

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 Today we have a really great question from a listener that you have probably wondered about yourself.

Hi ladies,

I enjoy your show, and I learn a lot! I am wondering if you can help me to understand a couple of words that I hear used often. I am wondering about the use of the words “research” and “investigation.” Could you use them as verbs? I am just a little confused in this area.

Thank you for your help,


Start By Understanding The Differences

These are words that you may tend to hear used often, so let’s start by talking about the differences between these two words.

Looking at the word “research”, it can be used as either a noun or a verb.

The word “investigate” can be used as a verb, while investigation would be the noun version.

Their meanings are very similar, and so it’s easy to see how this can be a confusing area.

Often times you can use them as synonyms, but there are some differences that you want to be aware of.

  • To research something: This is more general and it may be used often in academia. You are likely to be gathering a lot of information in this type of situation.
  • To investigate something: Here you are likelylooking for one answer, maybe a specific piece of truth of some kind. This term is used often in crime shows.

So you can start to get a feel for how each one of these works, and the differences are starting to show up more easily.

The key to using these correctly is to see what the differences are, and then pick which one fits the situation.

Looking At Examples of Each

Let’s look at a couple of examples of each so that you can get a good understanding.

Since you can use them in various ways, let’s start by looking at these words when they are used as verbs.

  • “I need to research the neighborhoods in Tennessee so I know where I should move.”
  • “Why did she leave early last night? I need to investigate!”
  • “I am researching women in the workplace from the 1990s on…”
  • “Let’s investigate the impact of wealth on the retail business.”

So you can see that they are very similar, but investigate tends to be more serious in nature.

Now let’s take a look at these if they are used as nouns, which is just as common in terms of usage.

  • “I’m conducting research on company organization practices.”
  • “I need to see the research in order to come to a conclusion.”
  • “They launched an investigation into his spending habits.”
  • “The detectives found the murderer through a long investigation.”

Do you say investigate about or research about? 

You wouldn’t say investigate about, but you would say investigate something.

You could say something like “Let’s investigate the situation” or “Let’s investigate and find the answer!”

You could even say something like “We need to investigate this further.”

You can count on likely hearing is “research on (subject)”, “research in (field)”, and “research into (issue).”

You can say “investigation of” or “investigation into.”

These are very close, and they will be likely used interchangeably though you know now the correct usage.

It’s All About The Context

In general, think of the context! 

If you are watching a crime show, you’d probably say investigate.

If you are in the library you would probably say research.

Overall, you may tend to think of research as the more common one.

Let’s look at some general contexts so that you can see how this can work in your conversations.

  • Finding a house: You will likely research the neighborhoods.
  • Finding the specific answer to a problem: You will likely investigate to find that solution.
  • You would tend to research movie times.
  • You may investigate a situation, like for example a fight someone was in.

You may also use other words and phrases in this area such as look into, get to the bottom of something, find out, and explore.


What you want to know is that these words are so similar.

We gave you the basic and most important difference today.

They are both used in conversation, and so you want to practice using them to get used to them.

Try these out and see how you can build confidence and choose the one taht is right for your conversation.

If you have any questions, please leave them below in the comments section.

We’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

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