Research Tips

Research & Academic Writing

Understanding research

Before you get started on a huge research project, it’s important to understand what research is, and think about how you might do it effectively. In this brief post, I want to cover what constitutes research, and the purpose of research.

What constitutes research?

Often, research is comprised of two types of resources: primary and secondary resources. Most writing you do shall be considered ‘secondary’ resources; indeed, often you will only use secondary resources in a given essay.

Primary resources: Those which are original, written by contemporaries in a time period (arts and humanities) or original research projects (sciences).

Secondary resources: Those which are written second-hand or, not by the original researchers or contemporaries. They often a second-hand analysis of arguments and evidence.

What is the purpose of research?

The purpose of research is to progress learning and knowledge. Within academia, it is research which underpins progress and development of knowledge. Research helps growth in technology, in understanding, in medicine. It helps to facilitate belonging and identity. It helps us to understand people, our world. It spurs us to consider questions which are deeply meaningful in our lives. It compels us to make changes, help people, and both do and be better.

Thus, research has a fairly broad purpose which is both practical and metaphysical…

While it might be tempting to imagine that the only purpose of your research is to get a good mark so you can pass a class and get a lovely postgraduate degree… it might be helpful to consider the larger picture. This just might spur you to be a better researcher.


Self-evaluation: why am I doing research? (handout) Coming soon

Primary vs Secondary Sources (infographic) Coming soon

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