According to the federal regulations (45 CFR 46 102.d),

Research means a systematic investigation (including research development, testing and evaluation) designed to develop or contribute to generalizable knowledge.

There are two significant points to consider:

  1. What is a systematic investigation?
    Systematic investigations can usually be recognized by the fact that they have a question they are attempting to answer, or a hypothesis they are attempting to prove/disprove.
  2. What is developing or contributing to generalizable knowledge?
    You are developing/contributing to generalizable knowledge if you intend on sharing the information you produce with others, be it within a classroom, at a poster presentation, at a conference, or in a publication.

Some examples of what is not research: