Research Key Concepts
A: Two General Approaches to Research
- Empirical research: Designing, conducting and publishing original research projects and research findings to yield new info and understanding (e.g., surveys, interviews, field observations, or lab experiments.)
- Library/Web research: Finding and studying already-published key knowledge and info by scholars, experts and other authority sources to gain a better understanding of a subject matter.
B: Two Kinds of Sources for Research
- Primary sources: Original works written by an author.
- Secondary sources: Works on an author's primary works, written by scholars or experts or other credible sources.
- Research papers depend mostly on secondary sources.
- For example, you do not necessarily need to read an author's works extensively to do a research paper on the author. You get to know the author's key works from reading published analysis by scholars, experts, and other credible sources.
- You can gain knowledge and info from published sources from the very best on any subject in any field.
C: Two Kinds of Knowledge
- General knowledge: Info that can be found in dictionaries and other common reference sources, info like an author's birthday, ethnicity, job, death date. Such general info does not require documentation--unless it involves controversies.
- Specified knowledge: Info that cannot be found in dictionaries and other common reference sources, info like these: an author's divorce and its impact on his works; different theme interpretations, etc. Such specific info and views require clear documentation.
- For a college research paper, it is much wiser to over-document than to under-document sources in the paper. After all, you are not an expert on a given author or topic, and you have to find the info somewhere. So, to play safe, always give standard citations so as to make your info clear and credible.
- When writing a research paper, you want to understand 'plagiarism' and how to avoid it. Plagiarism is often described as a theft of other people's intellectual properties. To stay away from it, you want to make it super clear what words and ideas are yours, what are not. If not yours, whose and from where? A good way to write a research paper is imagining a critical voice always asking:
- "How do you know?"
- "Whose words and ideas are these?"
- "From what source do you get these words and ideas?"