Based on your example sentence, it makes more sense that your teacher had other suggestions to offer you, why she said it didn’t make sense for research to inform you of anything — it’s not like you got a letter in the mail with sudden news of something. Just looking around for something never informs anyone of anything, and research is looking around.
Besides her suggestions, several simpler versions might work, too:
Research on shame has told us that. . . .
Research on shame has taught us that. . . .
Research on shame has shown us that. . . .
Research on shame has suggested that. . . .
Research on shame has indicated that. . . .
Your example falls under this OED sense, with bold emphasis mine:
- a. To impart knowledge of some particular fact or occurrence to (a person); to tell (one) of or acquaint (one) with something; to apprise. Const. of, about, on, or with subordinate clause; rarely †with, †in, or second object. The prevailing modern sense.
This is the prevailing modern sense, and it is the one that applies here. Here is a citation for the normal use:
- 1841 D’Israeli Amen. Lit. (1867) 360 ― Ascham informs us that··Elizabeth understood Greek better than the canons of Windsor.
Yes, that has a human agent. It is possible for a notice or letter to inform you of something as well, although one again posits an ultimately human agent at the other end of that missive. In contrast, a dirt stain could not inform you of something; that doesn’t make sense.
I agree with your teacher that research doesn’t inform you of anything, and suggest that if you do not care for any of her suggestions because they are too strong, you could try some of my weaker versions.
It’s currently trendy, although by no means new in its own right, to use inform as a fancy Latin synonym for shape. In many ways this is a throw-back to older obsolete senses which are no longer used. That means it strikes some people as funny.
The OED arranges the many senses for this word into four principle groups:
- To give form to, put into form or shape.
- To give ‘form’ or formative principle to: see form sb. 4.
- To give form to the mind, to discipline, instruct, teach (a person), to furnish with knowledge.
- To instruct in (a thing), impart the knowledge of, make known.
The last of those is the safest.
This Google N-gram of inform our ideas shows just how recently that phrase has taken off:
Notice how it is virtually absent from the record until its meteoric rise just a few years ago. That’s why it’s a trendy thing to say, practically a cliché. If this was the way you were trying to use it, I can understand why your teacher might have steered you away from it.
Whether you should use it that way or not is up to you; it may bother some people or confuse others. If you restrict your use of inform to people telling other people something, you will not run that risk.