Research Qs and As


What's the difference between primary and secondary research?
Primary research is information that you collect yourself - interviews, polls, questionnaires, surveys. Secondary research is information that has been compiled or published by someone else. If you create, distibute and analyze your own Survey Monkey survey, that's primary research. If you review the findings of someone else's Survey Monkey survey, that's secondary research. Articles that you find on the Internet, or in any of the proprietary databases (Lexis/Nexis, Proquest, etc.) are secondary research sources.

Is Wikipedia a credible secondary resource?
Cleary University does not recognize Wikipedia as a reliable resource. Why? Because anyone can add content to Wikipedia. It is, however, a great place to go to find general information or if you're looking for ideas. Just make sure that you find similar, "cite-able" information from another more reliable source.

What else should I consider when I begin to research a topic?
  • Are you looking for information about a general topic?
    Begin with subject directories or government sites. Try a phrase search in one of the search engines.
  • Should you try more than one search engine?
    Definitely, yes. To conduct comprehensive research, you should try at lease two sites that use different search technology and maintain distinct directories.
  • Are your search results too large?
    Try limiting your results by putting your phrase in quotation marks. This will tell the search engine to find results with your exact phrase.
  • Having trouble getting on target results?
    Take some time to review the differences among search engines and determine what Boolean operators are supported and how you may limit your search.

What other factors are important to consider?
  • Research will take more time than you think. Plan ahead!
  • You will rarely find an article that is exactly on your topic. Learn to use the information you have to make your point.
  • Use the information you have at hand to find more information – look at URLs, references to additional articles, statistics.
  • To quickly limit any search, put your search phrase in quotation marks.
  • Plan to combine information you find searching the internet with other information available through local libraries.

Are there any BEST BETS?
Information available through the Internet changes all the time. However, the odds are good when you are looking for:
  • Government documents
  • Current newsworthy information
  • Facts like dictionary definitions, zip codes, addresses, telephone numbers
  • Company information
  • An expert
  • Public opinion

The odds also favor finding information if:
  • The issue or subject concerns or interests trade associations, educational institutions, or advocacy groups
  • The issue or subject is currently “hot” or the subject of media attention

Are there times when I shouldn't rely solely on Internet research?
Of course. Consider your audience, your topic and your purpose. There are a variety of non-Internet related sources of information. You may need to conduct your own primary research to supplement any secondary research you complete. Specifically, do not rely on ONLY Internet sources to
  • Compile complete information on a subject to the exclusion of other sources
  • Conduct comprehensive historical research
  • Approach research on the Internet as if it were an online database
  • Locate an expert to the exclusion of other sources
  • Find complete public record information without expecting to pay for it

What are some examples of reliable niche databases?

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