How to Conduct Credible Secondary Research

Photo by Patrick Tomasso

In case a definition is required, there is a difference between “primary” research and “secondary” research. In fact, the difference is critical when it comes to conducting research and using it as source material.

Primary research is new research. It involves conducting interviews, conducting surveys or first-hand observation. An easy example could be a newspaper article about an event when the subjects are interviewed for information and quotes.

So, what is secondary research? As the Internet has expanded, there is a lot of secondary research as it is easy to search on a topic and have pages and pages of Google searches spring forth. Secondary research makes use of information previously researched for other purposes and publicly available. A good researcher knows how to use both primary and secondary sources in her writing and to integrate them in a cohesive fashion. Experiments, investigations, or tests carried out to acquire data first-hand, rather than being gathered from published sources.

How do you know the site is credible?

The challenge with secondary research has not changed: Is it credible? How do you know its references are factual? How do you know it is not opinion? Who is behind the site? Is there an agenda?

There are clues that help writers to source secondary research online and feel confident what they are reading can be used for a writing project.
1. Source the site: Using the CARS Method How to Source a Web Site. It is an easy method and checklist to validate the reliability of a Web Site.
Credibility- How does this source know this information? Why should I believe this source over another?

Accuracy, Reasonableness, Support

Reasonableness: Examine the information for fairness, objectivity, moderateness and consistency.

Support: What is the source and corroboration of the information? Much information comes from other sources. Citing sources strengthens the credibility.

2. Another way to be sure the Internet search is valuable is to use professional search methods to be sure you are answering the question you asked?
There are several options to put into a search engine. It’s all about the clarity of the question. A few are:

-The hyphen search string: Omits any word placed after the actual hyphen. For example, Internet -marketing
-The wildcard search: The wildcard search * Insert the * symbol instead of a word.
-The date range search: 2008 january-2008 july
-The exact search: Put quotes “” around words. This cuts out irrelevant results
-Blog keyword search: writing inurl:blog. You can also use the search term inurl: to restrict the search to page URLs inurl:writing which also includes blogs.
-The file type search: Find PDF’s, PPTs, spreadsheets (xls) business filetype:pdf
-The safe search: Excludes all adult content from the results: safesearch:online
-The link search: link: www.gerispieler.com
-The site search: If you want to find information on only the one website you are best off to use the following search term to find the most accurate results: site:gerispieler.com
-Find stuff using either or results: marketing OR writing
-The definition search: define:writing
-Boolean search: And, Or, Not, +: Example- Portland AND Oregon, Oregon NOT travel.

There are many ways an article can still be compelling by only using secondary research. It’s up to the writer to create it.

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