That depends on what kind of research you’re talking about. When I was working in a microbiology lab, there was a lot of molecular genetics, and culturing involved. Most of the “conducting research” comes from collecting data on bacterial growth, responses to various factors that could affect it—barring that it’s reproducible in a laboratory conditions of course—such as temperature, pH, salinity, etc. Per molecular genetics, it’s more DNA based. So I would perform various DNA extractions, run it through a PCR and then gel the thing in order to see what’s going on with the sequences. You can pick and choose where and what segments of DNA by using bioinformatics—which basically involves reading the sequence from a database, creating a primer, etc and then letting it run with an enzyme to produce DNA segments that you can observe via electrophoresis. I also did multiplex PCR, looked at epidemic clones (bacterial strains that are specific to outbreaks), and typical growth profiles.
In organic geochemistry—which is what I do now in grad school—different laboratory discipline is involved. In order to analyze organic molecules, you have to extract them first. Mostly from liquid or solid samples. Since I’m working on a cryogenic brine system, where you can find extremophile bacterial system sustaining energy without sunlight and what not, I have to work in with a more rigorous rule of preventing contamination. Antarctic lakes are really hard to access so I only have limited amount of samples. Which means that conducting research is significantly harder. Extraction is exceptionally tedious, especially with a ton of different organic solvents. Once I extract organics, I basically dissolve it in a medium that’s detectable with a GC-MS—which is an instrument used to detect compounds on a molecule-by-molecule level. We send GC-MS to Mars for a reason because it’s the best instrument out there that can detect molecules and tell us what it is. Right now, I’m trying to “characterize” a slew of organic compounds, rather than looking at some sort of “change” like I did in microbiology.
Essentially, the research I’m conducting now is like a “shotgun” approach, whereas before, it was definitely very standard-based and “methodological”
Hope this answered your question!