Reflection Five – Primary and Secondary Research

Research can be either primary or secondary. While primary research is new, and it’s conducted to respond to explicit subjects or questions. This can include surveys and interviews, but comes mostly from individuals or a few people forming a group. Secondary research takes primary research and makes it readily available to the community. It includes public research reports that can be found over the Internet, or in a library (like John Jay’s database). Secondary research is perfect for research reports, schoolwork, and other ways to present information that has already been collected. Usually, organizations will utilize secondary research to find out what is already known about the subject. It’s cheaper and easier than setting up primary research.

Secondary research is sometimes hard to stomach, but it’s helpful. It’s perfect for when I am trying to understand a concept that I cannot grasp, or when I want to supplement an argument with previously conducted tests and conclusions. It’s tedious, but it’s good practice for a psychologist (because so much of the work is sifting through papers) and I want to be able to be good at it. Besides that, primary research is difficult because you are coming up with your own questions and you have to guess at a conclusion that may or may not match up to your expectations. It works well when you have a specific research idea in mind, but it’s much harder to be vague and work your way into your topic when you are designing the research questions as opposed to just going through a few expert’s work and eventually surmising a question (and I realize that this isn’t the best way to do research, I wouldn’t ever start a project this way, but sometimes it’s nice to have the option to explore ideas and gather inspiration that way). There’s also something about the uncertainty of primary research that makes me prefer the latter. I’m never a fan of conflict, but I know that sometimes you will run into it when asking questions, especially particularly personal questions. It’s also easy to get sidetracked when you are doing primary research (although the internet does quite a bit to sidetrack me as well), because I love to listen with people and converse with them as well.

Finally, I enjoy either type of research when I am passionate for what I am researching. In one of my Anthropology classes, I spent an entire semester learning about using and abusing drugs. While the articles that I read were fascinating, what was even more so was finally asking one of the former drug users I knew about his experience. Even so, the conversation eventually steered to me (on a completely different topic, because my experience with drugs is painfully limited), and I was glad that I could have papers to fill in the details of my interview, where I could have pressed my subject into telling me more, but it was such a delicate subject that I let him take the lead. Both types of research are fine, in a world where I cannot get away from doing research in the first place.

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