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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Research Paper Sources: Is Your Data Original or Derivative?

Conducting research for a paper or study requires students to be able to determine where and when their sources are reporting information derived from the primary research, which is, in essence a derivative or second-order reporting. Needless to say, this could lead to errors. Here are a few ways to avoid the problems.

Seek the Primary Source of Statistics and Studies:

Using a web-based search engine such as Google, or a database such as Lexis-Nexis that contains a large number of newspaper articles, can yield excellent preliminary results if one is seeking statistics or the results of research to provide evidenciary support for a position made in one’s primary thesis.

However, it could be a bit risky to use the information from the newspaper source, since it could have been slightly distorted or mistyped (scrivener’s errors, etc.). Even worse, the information is often gleaned from a press release, which was created with a definite agenda in mind, resulting in potential skew or bias.

The best approach is to use the newspaper articles as a good first step. After finding who conducted the research, where the results were published, and when, go online to online information repositories and obtain the actual report.

Many times, the report or original publication will be housed on the website of the organization that is publishing the results. This is many times the case with government agencies, not-for-profit organizations and think tanks.

Identify Second-Order Derivatives of Primary Research-Use as Points of Departure:
A reference to a published report or statistics can be thought of as second-order derivatives of primary research. While these are very useful, the information can be a confusing, especially if the article contains a combination of original research and other peoples’ findings.

Sometimes it is not easy to determine that an article is referring to the results of studies contained in other published reports.

While reading the article, it is often useful to develop a diagram that lists the research, the dates, and the names of the primary researchers.

If several studies are being mentioned, it is important to be able to differentiate them. Once the second-order derivatives have been identified, make list and start to construct a brief annotated bibliography. If the results are to be quoted or used in one’s own paper, it is important to obtain a copy of the original report.

Here is a video:

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