As researchers, it can be helpful to talk about different types of research with specific characteristics. There are many different types of research, but from a broad perspective, it can be helpful to think of research as falling into one of three categories.
Background research is a kind of pre-research. Consulting tertiary or background sources like encyclopedias, dictionaries, or textbooks can help researchers gather basic or background information about a topic that they can leverage to design better searches later in their research. These sources are a great place to learn general information about a topic, including major movements or conversations happening in a discipline. Because a lot of information is summarized broadly in these sources, they are great for getting “caught up” on a topic but don’t include detailed or up-to-date information. Background research can help researchers narrow a topic and learn subject-specific keywords. Background resources often reference important scholars in a field.
Encyclopedias are valuable sources for pre-research, but usually shouldn’t be cited as evidence in your academic papers.
After you have a good sense for your area of research and some context around your narrowed research, you can begin in-depth research for primary and secondary sources to find evidence to build your argument or thesis. In-depth research can look different depending on the kinds of resources you need. Some disciplines call for specific resources and techniques. For example, business research involves honed web research and specialized databases with financial data and analyst reports. Often, in-depth research includes searching article databases for scholarly journal articles on your topic. If you’re unsure where to start, you can always consult a reference librarian.
Remember that research isn’t a linear process: There’s nothing stopping you from going back to background research to fill in more information, then jumping back into in-depth research when you’re ready.
Students and scholars conduct original research when they collect and analyze data. There are many categories of research within this broad category, including but not limited to: quantitative, qualitative, longitudinal, and experimental. These are the same studies researchers find as part of their in-depth research above- the difference is if you as a researcher are collecting and analyzing information, or finding the research done by others.
Content authored by: AJ
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