Research is all about finding out something new that, in a way, no one else has done before. Not brand new, of course, but something built upon of the shoulders of existing work that pushes the envelope just a bit. In the early years, students complete reports in which they organize and share information...which students generally hate because its a complete waste of time. The Wikipedia pages about all of those facts are already complete and much better than anything they'll up with. In the 11th and 12th grade years, students write literature reviews/analyses about American short stories and British novels. These are closer to research (in that they're actually learning and developing ideas as a result of their reading, rather than as mere support) but still not really anything new. Students are, at best, synthesizing and reporting ideas from other critics. The odds of them answering a question, especially one that's important to them, are rare. It's research but without curiosity...which is really the whole point.
This year, a large number of my students have jumped into the 20% project. After two days of talking with them in the library, I can tell most are excited about their projects not because they're thrilled to be doing work, but because they're getting to spend time learning, reading, thinking, and presenting about something they actually care about. Additionally, by the end, most will actually create an original piece of knowledge that, in some way, is completely unique. Will their findings change the world? That's unlikely...but they'll make a small dent in the body of knowledge. They'll still need to learn the specifics of research someday (validity, reliability, qualitative data, etc.) but they're at least seeing that research is all about answering questions, not merely following an old process. For a moment, many are discovering the ability to discover something new.