- Immerse yourself in a domain
- Grok it till you can spot holes in it
- Find an idea that covers one of these holes
- Show the novelty of that idea by the fact that it fills a hole or covers some aspect of the domain that wasn't covered before.
- Prove the idea either formally using theorems and lemmas or present data that supports the it with some level of certainty
The grand finale of the research process is when it is dumped out as a research paper that is accepted to a journal or presented in a conference.
Engineering is somewhat different.
The engineering process is initiated when there's a need to solve a problem - which is done by constructing and materializing a solution (which does not have to be a novel one).
This usually involves a development process. The solution's novelty can be further protected as a patent.
In this process, a bulletproof and robust solution is the holy grail.
A successful system is one that:
- Solves the given problem
- Provides maximal output with minimal resources
- Can be used by many users (not just by the solution/system developers)
I was, am and will be involved in both of these processes, so all I can say is that the understanding in which process you are is far more important then the kind of process you participate in.