Research is not limited to what has already been written or found at the library, also known as secondary research. Rather, individuals conducting research are producing the articles and reports found in a library database or in a book. Primary research ... is research that is collected firsthand rather than found in a book, database, or journal.
How primary research is defined varies widely from field to field. For example:
Primary research is often based on principles of the scientific method, a theory of investigation first developed by John Stuart Mill. Although the application of the scientific method varies from field to field, the general principles of the scientific method allow researchers to learn more about the world and observable phenomena. Using the scientific method, researchers develop research questions or hypotheses and collect data on events, objects, or people that is measurable, observable, and replicable.
The ultimate goal in conducting primary research is to learn about something new that can be confirmed by others and to eliminate our own biases in the process.
Observations: Observing and measuring the world around you, including observations of people and other measurable events.
Interviews: Asking participants questions in a one-on-one or small group setting.
Surveys: Asking participants about their opinions and behaviors through a short questionnaire.
Most research requires a mix of primary and secondary. Ex: A nutrition major at Purdue University, wanted to learn more about student eating habits on campus.
His primary research included observations of the campus food courts, student behavior while in the food courts, and a survey of students’ daily food intake.
His secondary research included looking at national student eating trends on college campuses, information from the United States Food and Drug Administration, and books on healthy eating.
Choosing a Data Collection Method: Once you have formulated a research question or hypothesis, you will need to make decisions about what kind of data you can collect that will best address your research topic.
Observations: Observations can be conducted on nearly any subject matter, and the kinds of observations you will do depend on your research question.
Eliminating bias: You need to be aware of the difference between an observation (recording exactly what you see) and an interpretation (making assumptions and judgments about what you see). When you observe, you should focus first on only the events that are directly observable.
Surveys and Interviews: Interviews and surveys are two ways that you can gather information about people’s beliefs or behaviors. With these methods, the information you collect is not first-hand (like an observation) but rather “self-reported” data, or data collected in an indirect manner.
Survey or Interview? How do you choose between conducting a survey or an interview?
Interviews, or question and answer sessions with one or more people, are an excellent way to learn in-depth information from a person for your primary research project.
One way of eliminating bias in your research is to record your interviews rather than rely on your memory. Recording interviews allows you to directly quote the individual and re-read the interview when you are writing.
Surveys: One of the keys to creating a successful survey is to keep your survey short and focused. [Y]ou want your survey to be something that can be filled out within a few minutes.
The target length of the survey also depends on how you will distribute the survey. If you are giving your survey to other students in your dorm or classes, they will have more time to complete the survey. Therefore, five to ten minutes to complete the survey is reasonable. If you are asking students as they are walking to class to fill out your survey, keep it limited to several questions that can be answered in thirty seconds or less.
For this project you will be doing a mix of primary (original) and secondary (using others' research) research.