What is Primary Research and How do I get Started?
Primary research involves collecting data about a given subject directly from the real world. This section includes information on what primary research is, how to get started, ethics involved with primary research and different types of research you can do. It includes details about interviews, surveys, observations, and analysis.
Contributors:Dana Lynn Driscoll, Allen Brizee
Last Edited: 2010-04-17 06:10:21
Primary research is any type of research that you go out and collect yourself. Examples include surveys, interviews, observations, and ethnographic research. A good researcher knows how to use both primary and secondary sources in her writing and to integrate them in a cohesive fashion.
Conducting primary research is a useful skill to acquire as it can greatly supplement your research in secondary sources, such as journals, magazines, or books. You can also use it as the focus of your writing project. Primary research is an excellent skill to learn as it can be useful in a variety of settings including business, personal, and academic.
But I’m not an expert!
With some careful planning, primary research can be done by anyone, even students new to writing at the university level. The information provided in this handout will help you to get started.
What types of projects or activities benefit from primary research?
When you are working on a local problem that may not have been addressed before and little research is there to back it up.
When you are working on writing about a specific group of people or a specific person.
When you are working on a topic that is relatively new or original and few publications exist on the subject.
You can also use primary research to confirm or dispute national results with local trends.
What types of primary research can be done?
Many types of primary research exist. This guide is designed to provide you with an overview of primary research that is often done in writing classes.
Interviews: Interviews are one-on-one or small group question and answer sessions. Interviews will provide a lot of information from a small number of people and are useful when you want to get an expert or knowledgeable opinion on a subject.
Surveys: Surveys are a form of questioning that is more rigid than interviews and that involve larger groups of people. Surveys will provide a limited amount of information from a large group of people and are useful when you want to learn what a larger population thinks.
Observations: Observations involve taking organized notes about occurrences in the world. Observations provide you insight about specific people, events, or locales and are useful when you want to learn more about an event without the biased viewpoint of an interview.
Analysis: Analysis involves collecting data and organizing it in some fashion based on criteria you develop. They are useful when you want to find some trend or pattern. A type of analysis would be to record commercials on three major television networks and analyze gender roles.
Where do I start?
Consider the following questions when beginning to think about conducting primary research:
- What do I want to discover?
- How do I plan on discovering it? (This is called your research methods or methodology)
- Who am I going to talk to/observe/survey? (These people are called your subjects or participants)
- How am I going to be able gain access to these groups or individuals?
- What are my biases about this topic?
- How can I make sure my biases are not reflected in my research methods?
- What do I expect to discover?