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: Studying already-published key knowledge 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 others.
- 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 by the very best on any subject in a 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 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 need to make it very 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?"