Top 3 Research Tips

  1. Buy a copy of The Craft of Research by Booth, Colomb and Williams.
    • Then actually read it, and mark it up with a pencil. This alone will catapult your work way above your peers.

  2. Ask your librarian.
    • It’s their job to know the library’s resources, so ask them. They'll often take you to exactly what you need, saving you a lot of time.

  3. Understand the difference between primary and secondary sources.
    • Primary: These are the "raw data" materials. In fields like history and literature that study writers and documents, primary sources are texts from the period or by the author you are studying. In such fields, you can rarely write a research paper without using primary sources.
    • Secondary: These are research reports, whether books or articles, based on primary data or sources. You can quote or cite them to support your own research.

      If a researcher quoted your research report to support his argument, your report would be his secondary source. If, on the other hand, he were writing your biography, your paper would be a primary source.

    • Tertiary: These are books and articles based on secondary sources. They synthesize and explain research in a field, usually for a popular audience. Generally they just restate what others have said.

      Tertiary sources can help in the early stages of research, when you're trying to get a sense of a whole field, but they're weak support for new claims because they usually oversimplify, are seldom up-to-date, and are consequently mistrusted by most experts.

    These definitions of primary, secondary and tertiary sources are from The Craft of Research.