I understand that this topic is a bit vague, but if someone could give me a pointer in the right direction, I would greatly appreciate it.
I'm currently an American undergraduate taking part in an internship at a Japanese engineering university in a professor's research lab for the summer. I have no prior experience with computer science research, and my understanding of it is pretty fuzzy, but I assumed it would involve a decent amount of theory and less software engineering practice.
However, many of the graduate students in my lab are working on projects that I would only think of as software engineering. For example, one is developing a system to effectively generalize how various sensors could interact with a common server. Another developed an iOS app and a server backend that basically gathers data from the app into the server for analysis (and the analysis isn't anything particularly special or innovative from what I understand).
The professor's main research project is developing a web app that uses a special algorithm to analyze discussions on a forum. The algorithm part is what I would think of as research, but from the papers I've read regarding it, they seem to focus on the app as a whole and less on the algorithm.
Do all of these things count as computer science research? Would they perhaps fall more under computer engineering research with less emphasis on computer science theory? And (at least in America, where I plan to attend graduate school) is this a common kind of research for graduate students and/or professors? It just seems strange to me that what I view as basically building a useful app counts as academic research. It seems more like engineering to me and less like research.