In the past few years I've started to do personal studies on different topics ranging all parts of life. They range in length from a week to a few months, on and off, but focus on understanding a particular subject more fully than I did at the start by reading, thinking, and writing about it.

I'm looking for a term (noun) to describe this or a verb to describe the act of doing the deep study on a particular topic. Are there any English words to properly describe this?

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    Investigation Jul 27, 2015 at 17:54
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    To study something doesn't usually mean in a shallow way. Somebody studying at college/university will do so for years but wouldn't call it deep because that is normal.
    – Avon
    Jul 27, 2015 at 17:58
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    I've taken courses in fields I was not familiar with to gain a better understanding. They were called surveys.
    – shimsham
    Jul 27, 2015 at 19:01
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    Please don't use "in depth". This phrase has been overused. Maybe once it meant something, now it is just jargon.
    – ab2
    Jul 27, 2015 at 19:28
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    "In depth" doesn't seem overused to me. You could use that or "intensive study," although that's not just one word.
    – user124384
    Jul 27, 2015 at 21:32

15 Answers 15


What first came to mind was:

delve: to carry on intensive and thorough research for data, information, or the like; investigate: to delve into the issue of prison reform.

Usually used with into, as in the example above.

Source: dictionary.com

  • 4
    Hey there codebreaker, please note that direct quotations require source citation(s). Please credit Dictionary.com, so I can up-vote this fine suggestion.
    – user98990
    Jul 27, 2015 at 23:45
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    @LittleEva Fixed. So it's not enough to just have a link? Jul 28, 2015 at 15:10
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    codebreaker, my experience with this is that EL&U strongly urges us to explicitly credit all direct quotations of others' material, on pain of deletion. Your edit now has two links to essentially the same location, all that is required is to leave the 'delve' link in place, use a plain text citation for the quotation, e.g., (Dictionary.com), anywhere you deem appropriate in the body of your post. Thank you, and +1.
    – user98990
    Jul 28, 2015 at 15:23
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    How's that for a response - now you're the leader of the pack!
    – user98990
    Jul 28, 2015 at 15:26
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    @LittleEva Okay, that makes sense, I see how other people are doing it. Thanks! Jul 28, 2015 at 15:33

As stated in the comments, investigation is the word that you are looking for.

A formal inquiry or systematic study



This was called a deep dive where I used to work:

an in-depth exploration

It's mostly used in the noun sense in business. "Tsk. We'll have to perform a deep-dive on this" or "let's do a deep dive on this tomorrow." It can mean exhaustively examining every facet of an issue.

It's a good noun to use in conjunction with the verb delve suggested earlier. A noun is needed in the business sense because a "deep dive" begins to take on a certain scheduled ominousness in the noun sense like exam, test, audit and review.

  • What an apt metaphor! It does indeed take on a certain scheduled ominousness in the noun sense. I have worked in organisations where taking a deep dive (not that I would have thought to call it that) was dangerous, because you never knew what you might encounter in the dark and murky depths and if you would return to the surface unscathed.
    – NMI
    Aug 31, 2017 at 6:47
  • Deep dive was a completely new expression to me before I read this answer and yet just today Adobe Systems emailed me with the subject: Get a deep-dive into creative skills. So what's with that hyphen? I would hyphenate it only as a compound adjective, for example: It's not looking good. I think we've got another deep-dive situation in the making.
    – NMI
    Aug 31, 2017 at 11:04

I might consider dividing out those studies which only took a couple of weeks and those that you spent a few months on and labeling them differently. For the studies that were only a few weeks, maybe something along the lines of "background research," "examination," or "inquiry." For those projects which you spent several months on, you might want something that packs a little more punch, like "comprehensive analysis." Or stick them all together: "During the past several years I engaged in a range of inquires on a variety of subjects, including background research on x, a through examination of y, as well as a comprehensive analysis of z." It's an easy way to denote which projects you have spent more time on and which projects you were less engaged in.


OP could describe these intensive, concentrated studies as, focused research.

focused adjective: giving a lot of attention to one particular thing: the need for more focused research (Cambridge Dictionaries online)


1. careful or diligent search

2. studious inquiry or examination; especially: investigation or experimentation aimed at the discovery and interpretation of facts, revision of accepted theories or laws in the light of new facts, or practical application of such new or revised theories or laws

3. the collecting of information about a particular subject; (Merriam-Webster online)


Originally, a perusal would have been exactly this, from the verb peruse which meant

to examine or read (something) in a very careful way

but has come to mean

to look at or read (something) in an informal or relaxed way

which is the very opposite. (Both definitions from Merriam-Webster.)

To a sufficiently pedantic crowd, however, perusal might remain an option for expressing this. Especially since the noun form perusal does not see the casual use that peruse does, the fact that you are using that form may be a cue to the right audience that you are using the word “correctly.”

Unfortunately, the risk of being interpreted as meaning the exact opposite of what you intend probably eliminates this from consideration.

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    +1 KRyan, as EL&U registers in the red zone on pedant-o-meters!
    – user98990
    Jul 27, 2015 at 23:51
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    No way. Next you'll be telling me that dilettante means someone who assiduously applies themselves.
    – stevesliva
    Jul 28, 2015 at 0:12
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    @stevesliva General originally meant “in all cases, with no exceptions,” and has completely switched meaning to “in most cases, but with frequent or expected exceptions.”
    – KRyan
    Jul 28, 2015 at 0:58
  • Oh, I love trivia, and this is that! "No way" was positive incredulity.
    – stevesliva
    Jul 28, 2015 at 4:49

A verb for this might be to pore over:

To examine something closely; in great detail. It can also refer to meditating over something, and to be fully absorbed in a subject.

It is, as the answer in the link says, usually associated with "academics who are passionate about their fields, and students who study obsessively before an important exam."

  • No, I don't think this is right. Pore over is used to mean examining a specific text or book. It isn't really used to mean analysing a topic.
    – Charon
    Jul 27, 2015 at 18:10
  • Agree with @Charon. If you can't use scrutinize, you probably don't want to use pore over.
    – stevesliva
    Jul 28, 2015 at 0:05

Contemplation or meditation, as in "he meditated on the question for many days". A "brown study" is a moody attitude, whether sad or angry.


An in-depth study of something would properly be called a survey:

to view or consider comprehensively

According to a New York Times report, the DOJ is surveying claims that the ticketing company is forcing venues to use its subsidiary, Ticketmaster, as vendor for high-profile events.

Patrick Shanley, The Hollywood Reporter, "Live Nation’s Ruthless Business Practices Reportedly Probed by Justice Department," 1 Apr. 2018


Simply typing the phrase “a survey of” into Google Scholar yields many such of such kinds of surveys.


Many words come to mind while describing your act.

  1. Thorough insight.
  2. Recursive study. (Recursive insight).
  3. Profound research. (abstract research)

I'm looking for a term (noun) to describe this or a verb to describe the act of doing the deep study on a particular topic

How about immersion?

From WordNet 3.0:

n 3. complete attention; intense mental effort

Colloquially, I've also heard deep dive used, in the context of troubleshooting, and especially in root cause analysis, to refer to an intensive, often protracted investigation or study.

Here's a source defining deep dive as:

an in-depth exploration.

Both terms are analogous to being deeply submerged in water, and possibly alluding to the mammalian diving reflex.

The mammalian diving reflex is a reflex in mammals which optimizes respiration to allow staying underwater for extended periods of time.

Hope this helps.



By Cambridge : A blow-by-blow description contains every detail and action of an event


However, we do not purport to offer in this book a detailed, blow by blow study of how each organisation set about inventing and implementing its system of PIs. [ref: https://books.google.com/books?isbn=1134813651]


The verb to scrutinize captures the meaning well.

scrutinize : to examine in detail with careful or critical attention.



I suggest ‘odyssey’ as it means a journey through something that is ‘epic’ - monsters are encountered and beheaded, Sirens beguile and are avoided and dragons are slain.

Studying and learning are a personal journey through which you encounter yourself, confront misunderstandings, judgements and inner conflicts, on your quest for your personal ‘truth’.

Odyssey derives from the adventures of Odysseus - his epic spiritual journey.

You can also say ‘spiritual odyssey’, ‘emotional odyssey’, ‘linguistic odyssey’ or ‘odyssey of self-discovery’, etc.



The could be termed an exposition, especially if it is written.

From WordNet 3.0:


n 1: a systematic interpretation or explanation (usually written) of a specific topic ...

3: an account that sets forth the meaning or intent of a writing or discourse ...

  • 1
    I don't think this really fits Jul 27, 2015 at 21:53

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