Online Guide to Writing and Research
Chapter 4: The Research Process
Research resources are usually thought of as primary sources and secondary sources. Primary sources can be firsthand accounts of actual events written by an eyewitness or original literary or artistic works. They may be letters, official records, interviews, survey results, and unanalyzed statistical data. These sources contain raw data and information, such as the original work of art or immediate impressions. Secondary sources, on the other hand, are usually discussions, evaluations, syntheses, and analyses of primary and secondary source information. You will no doubt use both primary and secondary sources throughout your academic career. When you use them and in what combination usually depends on what your research inquiry is and the discipline for which you are writing. If you are unclear which sources to use, ask your teacher for guidance.
Your research resources can come from your experiences; print media, such as books, brochures, journals, magazines, newspapers, and books; and CD-ROMs and other electronic sources, such as the Internet and the World Wide Web. They may also come from interviews and surveys you or someone else designs. You may develop your own field research where you collect data through observation or experimentation. For example, before you interview your candidates for a study on adolescent girls, you may use library research to get some background information on adolescent girls and their current issues. You may also want to observe them in a school setting, noting certain behaviors, dress, or mannerisms, depending on your focus. You may also want to review other studies on adolescent girls to see how the studies were conducted and the data interpreted. You may even design a survey to collect firsthand information from the girls themselves or from their teachers.
Your research question and the kind of research you do will guide the types of resources you will need to complete your research. Students today have easy access to a wider range of information than ever before. Conducting research today requires that you understand how to locate resources—in libraries and frequently online—and that you have the skill and motivation to work with librarians and library technology. Identifying and managing those resources within your research project is as important as integrating them into your own words and your research writing voice.