I have a phrase:

Investigation of catalytic phase structure using SEM and TEM methods

I always thought that "investigation of" is a correct way of saying it. But I am told that it is actually "investigation into".

Browsing the net, I could not find the answer about the difference of these two.

So my question is: does "investigation into" even exist, and if so, what's the difference between it and "investigation of", and where can each be used?

  • @Elliott: not always; certainly not as an article title in a scientific journal. – Peter Shor Jan 20 '14 at 14:59
  • This phrase is going to be in an official representation of a research plan, and this is just one of items in the list. Just clarifying things ;) – Highstaker Jan 20 '14 at 15:03
  • "Investigate" does not use a preposition. "Investigate" means "enquire into", so you can use "into" with "enquire". – Sanjeev Jul 23 '17 at 6:47

Both are completely legitimate.

Google's NGrams shows that "investigation of" is much more common than "investigation into". While NGrams usually needs to be taken with a grain of salt, this does show us that there is nothing inherently wrong with "investigation of".

NGram results comparing "of" and "into"

Furthermore, comparing "investigation into" against other random prepositions shows that it is much more common than, say, "from".


You might want to consider the proximity of similar words when making you choice. "An investigation of the effects of inhibitors on cells" sounds awkward due to the close proximity of one "of" to another. "An investigation into the effects of inhibitors on cells" in this case may be better. "An investigation into intracellular interactions" also sounds awkward, so in this case "of" would flow better: "An investigation of intracellular interactions."

I've seen non-native speakers use "on" after "investigation;" however, I'd consider that to be incorrect.


"Into" seems to be used more for concepts and non-tangible things

An investigation into the world of magic An investigation into the mind of children an investigation into the lucrative business of art-selling

"Of" seems to be used more with objects

An investigation of chocolate's benefits An investigation of cells organelles

This is NOT a rule I read anywhere, just what I found to be true (most times) when investigating this question


The word "of" can be used (among other uses):
Following a noun (now chiefly nouns of knowledge, communication etc.), to introduce its subject matter; Example: A tale of two cities (Charles Dickens)

Source: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/of#Preposition

So at the very least your phrase isn't wrong. But I'm not sure if "into" could be used interchangeably.

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