July 31, 2022| Category: Writing Tips
Throughout the 21st century, people have gained more knowledge and information than they could imagine 20, 40, or even 100 years ago. Still, it can be challenging to proceed these large quantities of data. Research is a way writers can bring sense to the information available to them. Moreover, research plays a vital role in writing academic papers, as it helps to effectively present arguments and sound persuasive.
What Is Research?
Research is a process of questioning some topic or issue and investigating the existing sources. Still, before starting the search for sources, it is crucial to analyze what one already knows and strives to learn. For example, if you are in need of finding some statistics, you may rely on the Pew Research Center or the US Census Bureau. However, if you want to investigate some legislation, you can research some comments on it in The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal.
The Difference between Primary and Secondary Research
Primary research relates to first-person accounts and manuscripts that focus on issues or problems that other scholars or researchers have not address yet. Some of the examples of primary research sources are:
- analyses and observations;
- ethnographic studies.
Secondary research is more familiar to writers, as this is what is better known as the analysis of scholarly articles, textbooks, and other sources found in libraries and online databases. Secondary research sources are already based on some formerly conducted research. Some of the examples are:
- government reports;
- statistical data;
- articles taken from scientific, academic or technical journals;
- professional and trade organization information.
When utilizing both primary and secondary sources, you can structure persuasive arguments. Specifically, primary research may be used for providing some narrow data about the topic, whereas secondary data can perform a more illustrative role.
For example, if you need to carry out research on the topic of homelessness, you may use information from such agencies as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Additionally, you can rely on the advocacy groups of the national and local levels such as the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio, the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the National Coalition for the Homeless, and Columbus Coalition for the Homeless.
Primary sources, on the other hand, can add important details to the secondary research. For example, specific surveys, interviews or questionnaires may reveal some local facts, statistics, and numbers. Thus, one can communicate with the homeless people, employees and volunteers who provide for their shelters and get in touch with OSU’s STAR House, which is a university-affiliated group, or communicate with writers and journalists from the local newspapers such as Street Speech.
Where to Begin?
Conducting research is about asking questions: on the types and the number of sources used; on the structure of the research process; on developing supporting ideas; and others. Some of the questions you may ask yourself throughout the research process are the following:
- What is the research paper timeline? Knowing the final deadline will enable you to set short-term and long-term goals within your research process.
- What do I aim to investigate? Answering this question will allow you to identify the scope of your research as well as its limitations. The scope of research also depends on the length: whether you have to write a term paper, a dissertation or a thesis paper.
- What information am I already aware of?
- What biases do I have in relation to the topic?
How to Choose Proper Methodology?
- Where can I find credible and trustworthy facts and data on the given topic? In academic writing, choose scientific, government, and technical resources.
- Will I have to carry out primary or secondary research, or maybe both?
Come up with the research question after you have got familiar with the general idea of your piece of writing. After formulating a research question, you should be ready to search for the answers.
Where to Look for the Answers?
The modern technological advancements of the 21st century allow us to look for any data on the Internet. Therefore, you can use various online platforms or library websites.
Google and Google Scholar
Google is one of the popular platforms utilized by writers to search for the essential information for any type of research. Specifically, one can use Google to find journal articles, periodicals, and other popular sources. More so, one can use Google to find out alternative terms and concepts, relevant organizations and businesses.
The results that appear in Google are structured not by accuracy but by popularity, so you should be attentive to whether the results are credible and up-to-date. Additionally, the results may be different, as Google customizes them depending on searches that various people perform.
Google Scholar is a more specific platform that can provide you with more scholarly-oriented results and academic topics. You can find there governmental documents, patents, legal documents, scientific articles, and books among others. The results will thus be more specific and oriented on the academic environment. More so, the information is more credible, as it is originally published in peer-reviewed sources.
When it comes to accuracy, resources taken from university libraries are certainly the best. Moreover, university libraries have a more limited number of results in comparison with Google or Google Scholar, so it would be easier to find technical and accurate information.
Another benefit of relying on libraries is that sources that libraries contain are better controlled. Any person can publish an article or create a blog on the Internet, whereas the sources presented in libraries are thoroughly checked. Before publication, scholars revise and analyze them; therefore, these sources are called peer-reviewed.
The most frequent types of library sources:
- Journals: these are normally focused on publishing articles on some narrow topic. For example, there are journals on computing, medicine, bioengineering, etc.
- Databases: these are services, where you can get access to academic books, periodicals, and scientific articles.
- Books: they are usually dedicated to a more broad topic in comparison to academic articles. They are also known as monographs and can be written by one author or by a group of authors.
- Other media: apart from regular published sources, you can get access to such media as documentaries, videos, audio files, and others.
How to Conduct a Search?
Keep in mind that research is not a linear process, and it is virtually impossible to research some topic from A to Z. One may be required to go back in the research process from time to time, review the ideas, and perform some analysis. When you have a rather general and broad topic, you should come up with a list of keywords so that you could focus on when structuring the information, providing supporting evidence or adding citations. A range of keywords along with their synonyms is useful in researching different results in Google Scholar or on other search platforms.
There are other tricks you may use to narrow down research on the net – you may put quotation marks around a term or a phrase so that the results will be more specific. Thus, when you take a phrase into quotation marks, the results will show you articles where these words appear in exactly the same order.