We live in an age overflowing with sources of information. With so many information sources at our fingertips, knowing where to start, sorting through it all and finding what we want can be overwhelming! This handout provides answers to the following research-related questions: Where do I begin? Where should I look for information? What types of sources are available?
Contributors:Dana Lynn Driscoll, Karl Stolley
Last Edited: 2013-02-14 11:08:55
Research isn't limited to published material that can be found on the Internet or at the library. Many topics you choose to write on may not have an abundance of sources and hence may require a different kind of approach to conducting research. This approach involves collecting information directly from the world around you and can include interviews, observations, and surveys; this is called primary research.
If you are working on writing about a problem local to your school or community, you may need to conduct primary research. You may be able to find secondary sources (such as those found at the library or online) on the more general topic you are pursuing, but may not find specifics on your school or town. To supplement this lack of sources, you can collect data on your own.
For example, Briel wants to research a proposed smoking ban in public establishments in Lafayette, Indiana. She begins by going to the library and then searching online. She finds information related to smoking bans in other cities around the United States, but only a few limited articles from the local newspaper on the ban proposed in Lafayette. To supplement this information, she decides to survey twenty local residents to learn what they think of the proposed smoking ban. She also decides to interview two local business owners to learn how they think the ban may affect their businesses. Finally, she attends and observes a town hall meeting where the potential ban is discussed.
Many different types of primary research exist. Some common ones used for writing classes include:
- Interviews: A conversation between two or more people in which one person (the interviewer) asks a series of questions to another person or persons (the interviewee).
- Surveys and questionnaires: A process of gathering specific information from people in a systematic way with a set series of questions. Survey questions usually have pre-specified or short responses.
- Observations: Careful viewing and documenting of the world around you.