What is research and why do we do it?
Research always starts with asking a question; it comes from a desire to fill in the gaps and expand upon our collective knowledge.
Research is an ongoing process that involves trial and error. The hard work of research allows us to answer questions and expand our understanding on particular topics.
Types of Sources
Consult this section if you want to know more about different types of information sources.
Primary: A primary source is a first-hand account of a situation or event or any original information source before it has been analyzed. Oftentimes, a primary source tells you what was being said about a topic at the time it took place. Below are some examples of primary sources:
- Statistical data sets
- Empirical research
- Literary and art works (novels, plays, poems, paintings)
- Speeches, diaries, memoirs
- Historical newspapers
- Eyewitness reports (interviews, photographs, tweets)
Secondary: Secondary sources often provide interpretation or analysis of events after they have occurred. Below are some examples of secondary sources:
- Biographies, nonfiction books
- Literary criticism and reviews
- Periodicals (such as scholarly journals, magazines, or newspapers)
Tertiary: A tertiary source is a collection of information which is meant to inform you with background knowledge and lead you to primary and secondary sources. Below are some examples of tertiary sources:
- Encyclopedias, dictionaries
- Most traditional textbooks
Academic sources are typically found in scholarly publications and are written by experts in a field of study. They often feature in-depth research and should always feature a bibliography of other scholarly research. These sources are published in journals and academic books.
Popular sources are published in media sources such as magazines, newspapers, websites, etc. They often contain information on current events or are intended to entertain. Here are a few examples of popular sources:
- Newspapers (The New York Times, The Washington Post, etc.)
- Magazines (The New Yorker, The Atlantic, People)
- Social Media (Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, YouTube)
Choosing a research topic
Choosing a research topic can be a difficult task. Even within the guidelines of an assigned topic, there can be multiple pathways to focus on. Here are some things to consider when narrowing down your topic:
Keep in mind that choosing a research topic is research!
- What are the topical guidelines your instructor has put in place? Does your topic need to adhere to a certain time period, individual, theory, etc.?
- Is there a particular subject that sparks your interest? Choosing topics we are passionate about can make the research process more engaging!
- What information resources have you been instructed to use? Peer-reviewed? Popular sources? Specific research methodologies?
- For current event topics; keep in mind that peer-reviewed sources are often unavailable for the first 6 months to a year after a particular event.
Once you have a general sense of your research topic, you will want to develop a compelling research question. Head to this page for more information. (LINK)
Doing Background Research
Doing background research on your topic is a great first step to get familiar with the content you will be researching.
It is perfectly fine to start your research with a preliminary Google search or a perusal of Wikipedia. Wikipedia is not a scholarly or academic source, but it can be a useful tool in the early parts of your research. Although anyone can edit Wikipedia, it has strict rules and guidelines for citations and is frequently checked for misinformation. Though it is not appropriate to cite wikipedia in your final research project, it can provide basic information to guide you in the research process. For more information on how to use Wikipedia wisely, go here.
- Add here links to more information
- This can also be used for links to other pages.