15 Secondary Research Examples
Secondary research is the analysis, summary or synthesis of already existing published research. Instead of collecting original data, as in primary research , secondary research involves data or the results of data analyses already collected.
It is generally published in books, handbooks, textbooks, articles, encyclopedias, websites, magazines, literature reviews and meta-analyses. These are usually referred to as secondary sources .
Secondary research is a good place to start when wanting to acquire a broad view of a research area. It is usually easier to understand and may not require advanced training in research design and statistics.
Secondary Research Examples
1. literature review.
A literature review summarizes, reviews, and critiques the existing published literature on a topic.
Literature reviews are considered secondary research because it is a collection and analysis of the existing literature rather than generating new data for the study.
They hold value for academic studies because they enable us to take stock of the existing knowledge in a field, evaluate it, and identify flaws or gaps in the existing literature. As a result, they’re almost universally used by academics prior to conducting primary research.
Example 1: Workplace stress in nursing: a literature review
Citation: McVicar, A. (2003). Workplace stress in nursing: a literature review. Journal of advanced nursing , 44 (6), 633-642. Source: https://doi.org/10.1046/j.0309-2402.2003.02853.x
Summary: This study conducted a systematic analysis of literature on the causes of stress for nurses in the workplace. The study explored the literature published between 2000 and 2014. The authors found that the literature identifies several main causes of stress for nurses: professional relationships with doctors and staff, communication difficulties with patients and their families, the stress of emergency cases, overwork, lack of staff, and lack of support from the institutions. They conclude that understanding these stress factors can help improve the healthcare system and make it better for both nurses and patients.
Example 2: The impact of shiftwork on health: a literature review
Citation: Matheson, A., O’Brien, L., & Reid, J. A. (2014). The impact of shiftwork on health: a literature review. Journal of Clinical Nursing , 23 (23-24), 3309-3320. Source: https://doi.org/10.1111/jocn.12524
In this literature review, 118 studies were analyzed to examine the impact of shift work on nurses’ health. The findings were organized into three main themes: physical health, psychosocial health, and sleep. The majority of shift work research has primarily focused on these themes, but there is a lack of studies that explore the personal experiences of shift workers and how they navigate the effects of shift work on their daily lives. Consequently, it remains challenging to determine how individuals manage their shift work schedules. They found that, while shift work is an inevitable aspect of the nursing profession, there is limited research specifically targeting nurses and the implications for their self-care.
Example 3: Social media and entrepreneurship research: A literature review
Citation: Olanrewaju, A. S. T., Hossain, M. A., Whiteside, N., & Mercieca, P. (2020). Social media and entrepreneurship research: A literature review. International Journal of Information Management , 50 , 90-110. Source: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijinfomgt.2019.05.011
In this literature review, 118 studies were analyzed to examine the impact of shift work on nurses’ health. The findings were organized into three main themes: physical health, social health , and sleep. The majority of shift work research has primarily focused on these themes, but there is a lack of studies that explore the personal experiences of shift workers and how they navigate the effects of shift work on their daily lives. Consequently, it remains challenging to determine how individuals manage their shift work schedules. They found that, while shift work is an inevitable aspect of the nursing profession, there is limited research specifically targeting nurses and the implications for their self-care.
Example 4: Adoption of electric vehicle: A literature review and prospects for sustainability
Citation: Kumar, R. R., & Alok, K. (2020). Adoption of electric vehicle: A literature review and prospects for sustainability. Journal of Cleaner Production , 253 , 119911. Source: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jclepro.2019.119911
This study is a literature review that aims to synthesize and integrate findings from existing research on electric vehicles. By reviewing 239 articles from top journals, the study identifies key factors that influence electric vehicle adoption. Themes identified included: availability of charging infrastructure and total cost of ownership. The authors propose that this analysis can provide valuable insights for future improvements in electric mobility.
Example 5: Towards an understanding of social media use in the classroom: a literature review
Citation: Van Den Beemt, A., Thurlings, M., & Willems, M. (2020). Towards an understanding of social media use in the classroom: a literature review. Technology, Pedagogy and Education , 29 (1), 35-55. Source: https://doi.org/10.1080/1475939X.2019.1695657
This study examines how social media can be used in education and the challenges teachers face in balancing its potential benefits with potential distractions. The review analyzes 271 research papers. They find that ambiguous results and poor study quality plague the literature. However, they identify several factors affecting the success of social media in the classroom, including: school culture, attitudes towards social media, and learning goals. The study’s value is that it organizes findings from a large corpus of existing research to help understand the topic more comprehensively.
Meta-analyses are similar to literature reviews, but are at a larger scale and tend to involve the quantitative synthesis of data from multiple studies to identify trends and derive estimates of overall effect sizes.
For example, while a literature review might be a qualitative assessment of trends in the literature, a meta analysis would be a quantitative assessment, using statistical methods, of studies that meet specific inclusion criteria that can be directly compared and contrasted.
Often, meta-analysis aim to identify whether the existing data can provide an authoritative account for a hypothesis and whether it’s confirmed across the body of literature.
Example 6: Cholesterol and Alzheimer’s Disease Risk: A Meta-Meta-Analysis
Citation: Sáiz-Vazquez, O., Puente-Martínez, A., Ubillos-Landa, S., Pacheco-Bonrostro, J., & Santabárbara, J. (2020). Cholesterol and Alzheimer’s disease risk: a meta-meta-analysis. Brain sciences , 10 (6), 386. Source: https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci10060386
This study examines the relationship between cholesterol and Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Researchers conducted a systematic search of meta-analyses and reviewed several databases, collecting 100 primary studies and five meta-analyses to analyze the connection between cholesterol and Alzheimer’s disease. They find that the literature compellingly demonstrates that low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) levels significantly influence the development of Alzheimer’s disease, but high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), total cholesterol (TC), and triglycerides (TG) levels do not show significant effects. This is an example of secondary research because it compiles and analyzes data from multiple existing studies and meta-analyses rather than collecting new, original data.
Example 7: The power of feedback revisited: A meta-analysis of educational feedback research
Citation: Wisniewski, B., Zierer, K., & Hattie, J. (2020). The power of feedback revisited: A meta-analysis of educational feedback research. Frontiers in Psychology , 10 , 3087. Source: https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.03087
This meta-analysis examines 435 empirical studies research on the effects of feedback on student learning. They use a random-effects model to ascertain whether there is a clear effect size across the literature. The authors find that feedback tends to impact cognitive and motor skill outcomes but has less of an effect on motivational and behavioral outcomes. A key (albeit somewhat obvious) finding was that the manner in which the feedback is provided is a key factor in whether the feedback is effective.
Example 8: How Much Does Education Improve Intelligence? A Meta-Analysis
Citation: Ritchie, S. J., & Tucker-Drob, E. M. (2018). How much does education improve intelligence? A meta-analysis. Psychological science , 29 (8), 1358-1369. Source: https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797618774253
This study investigates the relationship between years of education and intelligence test scores. The researchers analyzed three types of quasiexperimental studies involving over 600,000 participants to understand if longer education increases intelligence or if more intelligent students simply complete more education. They found that an additional year of education consistently increased cognitive abilities by 1 to 5 IQ points across all broad categories of cognitive ability. The effects persisted throughout the participants’ lives, suggesting that education is an effective way to raise intelligence. This study is an example of secondary research because it compiles and analyzes data from multiple existing studies rather than gathering new, original data.
Example 9: A meta-analysis of factors related to recycling
Citation: Geiger, J. L., Steg, L., Van Der Werff, E., & Ünal, A. B. (2019). A meta-analysis of factors related to recycling. Journal of environmental psychology , 64 , 78-97. Source: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2019.05.004
This study aims to identify key factors influencing recycling behavior across different studies. The researchers conducted a random-effects meta-analysis on 91 studies focusing on individual and household recycling. They found that both individual factors (such as recycling self-identity and personal norms) and contextual factors (like having a bin at home and owning a house) impacted recycling behavior. The analysis also revealed that individual and contextual factors better predicted the intention to recycle rather than the actual recycling behavior. The study offers theoretical and practical implications and suggests that future research should examine the effects of contextual factors and the interplay between individual and contextual factors.
Example 10: Stress management interventions for police officers and recruits
Citation: Patterson, G. T., Chung, I. W., & Swan, P. W. (2014). Stress management interventions for police officers and recruits: A meta-analysis. Journal of experimental criminology , 10 , 487-513. Source: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11292-014-9214-7
The meta-analysis systematically reviews randomized controlled trials and quasi-experimental studies that explore the effects of stress management interventions on outcomes among police officers. It looked at 12 primary studies published between 1984 and 2008. Across the studies, there were a total of 906 participants. Interestingly, it found that the interventions were not effective. Here, we can see how secondary research is valuable sometimes for showing there is no clear trend or consensus in existing literature. The conclusions suggest a need for further research to develop and implement more effective interventions addressing specific stressors and using randomized controlled trials.
Academic textbooks tend not to present new research. Rather, they present key academic information in ways that are accessible to university students and academics.
As a result, we can consider textbooks to be secondary rather than primary research. They’re collections of information and research produced by other people, then re-packaged for a specific audience.
Textbooks tend to be written by experts in a topic. However, unlike literature reviews and meta-analyses, they are not necessarily systematic in nature and are not designed to progress current knowledge through identifying gaps, weaknesses, and strengths in the existing literature.
Example 11: Psychology for the Third Millennium: Integrating Cultural and Neuroscience Perspectives
This textbook aims to bridge the gap between two distinct domains in psychology: Qualitative and Cultural Psychology , which focuses on managing meaning and norms, and Neuropsychology and Neuroscience, which studies brain processes. The authors believe that by combining these areas, a more comprehensive general psychology can be achieved, which unites the biological and cultural aspects of human life. This textbook is considered a secondary source because it synthesizes and integrates information from various primary research studies, theories, and perspectives in the field of psychology.
Example 12: Cultural Sociology: An Introduction
Citation: Bennett, A., Back, L., Edles, L. D., Gibson, M., Inglis, D., Jacobs, R., & Woodward, I. (2012). Cultural sociology: an introduction . New York: John Wiley & Sons.
This student textbook introduces cultural sociology and proposes that it is a valid model for sociological thinking and research. It gathers together existing knowledge within the field to prevent an overview of major sociological themes and empirical approaches utilized within cultural sociological research. It does not present new research, but rather packages existing knowledge in sociology and makes it understandable for undergraduate students.
Example 13: A Textbook of Community Nursing
Citation: Chilton, S., & Bain, H. (Eds.). (2017). A textbook of community nursing . New York: Routledge.
This textbook presents an evidence-based introduction to professional topics in nursing. In other words, it gathers evidence from other research and presents it to students. It covers areas such as care approaches, public health, eHealth, therapeutic relationships, and mental health. Like many textbooks, it brings together its own secondary research with user-friendly elements like exercises, activities, and hypothetical case studies in each chapter.
4. White Papers
White papers are typically produced within businesses and government departments rather than academic research environments.
Generally, a white paper will focus on a specific topic of concern to the institution in order to present a state of the current situation as well as opportunities that could be pursued for change, improvement, or profit generation in the future.
Unlike a literature review, a white paper generally doesn’t follow standards of academic rigor and may be presented with a bias toward, or focus on, a company or institution’s mission and values.
Example 14: Future of Mobility White Paper
Citation: Shaheen, S., Totte, H., & Stocker, A. (2018). Future of Mobility White Paper. UC Berkeley: Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Berkeley Source: https://doi.org/10.7922/G2WH2N5D
This white paper explores the how transportation is changing due to concerns over climate change, equity of access to transit, and rapid technological advances (such as shared mobility and automation). The authors aggregate current information and research on key trends, emerging technologies/services, impacts on California’s transportation ecosystem, and future growth projections by reviewing state agency publications, peer-reviewed articles, and forecast reports from various sources. This white paper is an example of secondary research because it synthesizes and integrates information from multiple primary research sources, expert interviews, and input from an advisory committee of local and state transportation agencies.
Example 15: White Paper Concerning Philosophy of Education and Environment
Citation: Humphreys, C., Blenkinsop, S. White Paper Concerning Philosophy of Education and Environment. Stud Philos Educ 36 (1): 243–264. Source: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11217-017-9567-2
This white paper acknowledges the increasing significance of climate change, environmental degradation, and our relationship with nature, and the need for philosophers of education and global citizens to respond. The paper examines five key journals in the philosophy of education to identify the scope and content of current environmental discussions. By organizing and summarizing the located articles, it assesses the possibilities and limitations of these discussions within the philosophy of education community. This white paper is an example of secondary research because it synthesizes and integrates information from multiple primary research sources, specifically articles from the key journals in the field, to analyze the current state of environmental discussions.
5. Academic Essays
Students’ academic essays tend to present secondary rather than primary research. The student is expected to study current literature on a topic and use it to present a thesis statement.
Academic essays tend to require rigorous standards of analysis, critique, and evaluation, but do not require systematic investigation of a topic like you would expect in a literature review.
In an essay, a student may identify the most relevant or important data from a field of research in order to demonstrate their knowledge of a field of study. They may also, after demonstrating sufficient knowledge and understanding, present a thesis statement about the issue.
Secondary research involves data that has already been collected. The published research might be reviewed, included in a meta-analysis, or subjected to a re-analysis.
These findings might be published in a peer-reviewed journal or handbook, become the foundation of a book for public consumption, or presented in a more narrative form for a popular website or magazine.
Sources for secondary research can range from scientific journals to government databases and archived data accumulated by research institutes.
University students might engage in secondary research to become familiar with an area of research. That might help spark an intriguing hypothesis for a research project of master’s thesis.
Secondary research can yield new insights into human behavior , or confirm existing conceptualizations of psychological constructs.
Dave Cornell (PhD)
Dr. Cornell has worked in education for more than 20 years. His work has involved designing teacher certification for Trinity College in London and in-service training for state governments in the United States. He has trained kindergarten teachers in 8 countries and helped businessmen and women open baby centers and kindergartens in 3 countries.
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This article was peer-reviewed and edited by Chris Drew (PhD). The review process on Helpful Professor involves having a PhD level expert fact check, edit, and contribute to articles. Reviewers ensure all content reflects expert academic consensus and is backed up with reference to academic studies. Dr. Drew has published over 20 academic articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education and holds a PhD in Education from ACU.
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How to Analyse Secondary Data for a Dissertation
Secondary data refers to data that has already been collected by another researcher. For researchers (and students!) with limited time and resources, secondary data, whether qualitative or quantitative can be a highly viable source of data. In addition, with the advances in technology and access to peer reviewed journals and studies provided by the internet, it is increasingly popular as a form of data collection. The question that frequently arises amongst students however, is: how is secondary data best analysed?
The process of data analysis in secondary research
Secondary analysis (i.e., the use of existing data) is a systematic methodological approach that has some clear steps that need to be followed for the process to be effective. In simple terms there are three steps:
- Step One: Development of Research Questions
- Step Two: Identification of dataset
- Step Three: Evaluation of the dataset.
Let’s look at each of these in more detail:
Step One: Development of research questions
Using secondary data means you need to apply theoretical knowledge and conceptual skills to be able to use the dataset to answer research questions. Clearly therefore, the first step is thus to clearly define and develop your research questions so that you know the areas of interest that you need to explore for location of the most appropriate secondary data.
Step Two: Identification of Dataset
This stage should start with identification, through investigation, of what is currently known in the subject area and where there are gaps, and thus what data is available to address these gaps. Sources can be academic from prior studies that have used quantitative or qualitative data, and which can then be gathered together and collated to produce a new secondary dataset. In addition, other more informal or “grey” literature can also be incorporated, including consumer report, commercial studies or similar. One of the values of using secondary research is that original survey works often do not use all the data collected which means this unused information can be applied to different settings or perspectives.
Key point: Effective use of secondary data means identifying how the data can be used to deliver meaningful and relevant answers to the research questions. In other words that the data used is a good fit for the study and research questions.
Step Three: Evaluation of the dataset for effectiveness/fit
A good tip is to use a reflective approach for data evaluation. In other words, for each piece of secondary data to be utilised, it is sensible to identify the purpose of the work, the credentials of the authors (i.e., credibility, what data is provided in the original work and how long ago it was collected). In addition, the methods used and the level of consistency that exists compared to other works. This is important because understanding the primary method of data collection will impact on the overall evaluation and analysis when it is used as secondary source. In essence, if there is no understanding of the coding used in qualitative data analysis to identify key themes then there will be a mismatch with interpretations when the data is used for secondary purposes. Furthermore, having multiple sources which draw similar conclusions ensures a higher level of validity than relying on only one or two secondary sources.
A useful framework provides a flow chart of decision making, as shown in the figure below.
Following this process ensures that only those that are most appropriate for your research questions are included in the final dataset, but also demonstrates to your readers that you have been thorough in identifying the right works to use.
Writing up the Analysis
Once you have your dataset, writing up the analysis will depend on the process used. If the data is qualitative in nature, then you should follow the following process.
- Read and re-read all sources, identifying initial observations, correlations, and relationships between themes and how they apply to your research questions.
- Once initial themes are identified, it is sensible to explore further and identify sub-themes which lead on from the core themes and correlations in the dataset, which encourages identification of new insights and contributes to the originality of your own work.
Structure of the Analysis Presentation
The introduction should commence with an overview of all your sources. It is good practice to present these in a table, listed chronologically so that your work has an orderly and consistent flow. The introduction should also incorporate a brief (2-3 sentences) overview of the key outcomes and results identified.
The body text for secondary data, irrespective of whether quantitative or qualitative data is used, should be broken up into sub-sections for each argument or theme presented. In the case of qualitative data, depending on whether content, narrative or discourse analysis is used, this means presenting the key papers in the area, their conclusions and how these answer, or not, your research questions. Each source should be clearly cited and referenced at the end of the work. In the case of qualitative data, any figures or tables should be reproduced with the correct citations to their original source. In both cases, it is good practice to give a main heading of a key theme, with sub-headings for each of the sub themes identified in the analysis.
Do not use direct quotes from secondary data unless they are:
- properly referenced, and
- are key to underlining a point or conclusion that you have drawn from the data.
All results sections, regardless of whether primary or secondary data has been used should refer back to the research questions and prior works. This is because, regardless of whether the results back up or contradict previous research, including previous works shows a wider level of reading and understanding of the topic being researched and gives a greater depth to your own work.
Summary of results
The summary of the results section of a secondary data dissertation should deliver a summing up of key findings, and if appropriate a conceptual framework that clearly illustrates the findings of the work. This shows that you have understood your secondary data, how it has answered your research questions, and furthermore that your interpretation has led to some firm outcomes.
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Dissertations 4: methodology: methods.
- Introduction & Philosophy
Primary & Secondary Sources, Primary & Secondary Data
When describing your research methods, you can start by stating what kind of secondary and, if applicable, primary sources you used in your research. Explain why you chose such sources, how well they served your research, and identify possible issues encountered using these sources.
There is some confusion on the use of the terms primary and secondary sources, and primary and secondary data. The confusion is also due to disciplinary differences (Lombard 2010). Whilst you are advised to consult the research methods literature in your field, we can generalise as follows:
Secondary sources normally include the literature (books and articles) with the experts' findings, analysis and discussions on a certain topic (Cottrell, 2014, p123). Secondary sources often interpret primary sources.
Primary sources are "first-hand" information such as raw data, statistics, interviews, surveys, law statutes and law cases. Even literary texts, pictures and films can be primary sources if they are the object of research (rather than, for example, documentaries reporting on something else, in which case they would be secondary sources). The distinction between primary and secondary sources sometimes lies on the use you make of them (Cottrell, 2014, p123).
Primary data are data (primary sources) you directly obtained through your empirical work (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill 2015, p316).
Secondary data are data (primary sources) that were originally collected by someone else (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill 2015, p316).
Comparison between primary and secondary data
Virtually all research will use secondary sources, at least as background information.
Often, especially at the postgraduate level, it will also use primary sources - secondary and/or primary data. The engagement with primary sources is generally appreciated, as less reliant on others' interpretations, and closer to 'facts'.
The use of primary data, as opposed to secondary data, demonstrates the researcher's effort to do empirical work and find evidence to answer her specific research question and fulfill her specific research objectives. Thus, primary data contribute to the originality of the research.
Ultimately, you should state in this section of the methodology:
What sources and data you are using and why (how are they going to help you answer the research question and/or test the hypothesis.
If using primary data, why you employed certain strategies to collect them.
What the advantages and disadvantages of your strategies to collect the data (also refer to the research in you field and research methods literature).
Quantitative, Qualitative & Mixed Methods
The methodology chapter should reference your use of quantitative research, qualitative research and/or mixed methods. The following is a description of each along with their advantages and disadvantages.
Quantitative research uses numerical data (quantities) deriving, for example, from experiments, closed questions in surveys, questionnaires, structured interviews or published data sets (Cottrell, 2014, p93). It normally processes and analyses this data using quantitative analysis techniques like tables, graphs and statistics to explore, present and examine relationships and trends within the data (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2015, p496).
Qualitative research is generally undertaken to study human behaviour and psyche. It uses methods like in-depth case studies, open-ended survey questions, unstructured interviews, focus groups, or unstructured observations (Cottrell, 2014, p93). The nature of the data is subjective, and also the analysis of the researcher involves a degree of subjective interpretation. Subjectivity can be controlled for in the research design, or has to be acknowledged as a feature of the research. Subject-specific books on (qualitative) research methods offer guidance on such research designs.
Mixed-method approaches combine both qualitative and quantitative methods, and therefore combine the strengths of both types of research. Mixed methods have gained popularity in recent years.
When undertaking mixed-methods research you can collect the qualitative and quantitative data either concurrently or sequentially. If sequentially, you can for example, start with a few semi-structured interviews, providing qualitative insights, and then design a questionnaire to obtain quantitative evidence that your qualitative findings can also apply to a wider population (Specht, 2019, p138).
Ultimately, your methodology chapter should state:
Whether you used quantitative research, qualitative research or mixed methods.
Why you chose such methods (and refer to research method sources).
Why you rejected other methods.
How well the method served your research.
The problems or limitations you encountered.
Doug Specht, Senior Lecturer at the Westminster School of Media and Communication, explains mixed methods research in the following video:
LinkedIn Learning Video on Academic Research Foundations: Quantitative
The video covers the characteristics of quantitative research, and explains how to approach different parts of the research process, such as creating a solid research question and developing a literature review. He goes over the elements of a study, explains how to collect and analyze data, and shows how to present your data in written and numeric form.
Link to quantitative research video
Some Types of Methods
There are several methods you can use to get primary data. To reiterate, the choice of the methods should depend on your research question/hypothesis.
Whatever methods you will use, you will need to consider:
why did you choose one technique over another? What were the advantages and disadvantages of the technique you chose?
what was the size of your sample? Who made up your sample? How did you select your sample population? Why did you choose that particular sampling strategy?)
ethical considerations (see also tab...)
procedure of the research (see box procedural method...).
Check Stella Cottrell's book Dissertations and Project Reports: A Step by Step Guide for some succinct yet comprehensive information on most methods (the following account draws mostly on her work). Check a research methods book in your discipline for more specific guidance.
Experiments are useful to investigate cause and effect, when the variables can be tightly controlled. They can test a theory or hypothesis in controlled conditions. Experiments do not prove or disprove an hypothesis, instead they support or not support an hypothesis. When using the empirical and inductive method it is not possible to achieve conclusive results. The results may only be valid until falsified by other experiments and observations.
For more information on Scientific Method, click here .
Observational methods are useful for in-depth analyses of behaviours in people, animals, organisations, events or phenomena. They can test a theory or products in real life or simulated settings. They generally a qualitative research method.
Questionnaires and surveys
Questionnaires and surveys are useful to gain opinions, attitudes, preferences, understandings on certain matters. They can provide quantitative data that can be collated systematically; qualitative data, if they include opportunities for open-ended responses; or both qualitative and quantitative elements.
Interviews are useful to gain rich, qualitative information about individuals' experiences, attitudes or perspectives. With interviews you can follow up immediately on responses for clarification or further details. There are three main types of interviews: structured (following a strict pattern of questions, which expect short answers), semi-structured (following a list of questions, with the opportunity to follow up the answers with improvised questions), and unstructured (following a short list of broad questions, where the respondent can lead more the conversation) (Specht, 2019, p142).
This short video on qualitative interviews discusses best practices and covers qualitative interview design, preparation and data collection methods.
In this case, a group of people (normally, 4-12) is gathered for an interview where the interviewer asks questions to such group of participants. Group interactions and discussions can be highly productive, but the researcher has to beware of the group effect, whereby certain participants and views dominate the interview (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill 2015, p419). The researcher can try to minimise this by encouraging involvement of all participants and promoting a multiplicity of views.
This video focuses on strategies for conducting research using focus groups.
Check out the guidance on online focus groups by Aliaksandr Herasimenka, which is attached at the bottom of this text box.
Case studies are often a convenient way to narrow the focus of your research by studying how a theory or literature fares with regard to a specific person, group, organisation, event or other type of entity or phenomenon you identify. Case studies can be researched using other methods, including those described in this section. Case studies give in-depth insights on the particular reality that has been examined, but may not be representative of what happens in general, they may not be generalisable, and may not be relevant to other contexts. These limitations have to be acknowledged by the researcher.
Content analysis consists in the study of words or images within a text. In its broad definition, texts include books, articles, essays, historical documents, speeches, conversations, advertising, interviews, social media posts, films, theatre, paintings or other visuals. Content analysis can be quantitative (e.g. word frequency) or qualitative (e.g. analysing intention and implications of the communication). It can detect propaganda, identify intentions of writers, and can see differences in types of communication (Specht, 2019, p146). Check this page on collecting, cleaning and visualising Twitter data.
Extra links and resources:
A clear and comprehensive overview of research methods by Emerald Publishing. It includes: crowdsourcing as a research tool; mixed methods research; case study; discourse analysis; ground theory; repertory grid; ethnographic method and participant observation; interviews; focus group; action research; analysis of qualitative data; survey design; questionnaires; statistics; experiments; empirical research; literature review; secondary data and archival materials; data collection.
Doing your dissertation during the COVID-19 pandemic
Resources providing guidance on doing dissertation research during the pandemic: Online research methods; Secondary data sources; Webinars, conferences and podcasts;
- Virtual Focus Groups Guidance on managing virtual focus groups
5 Minute Methods Videos
The following are a series of useful videos that introduce research methods in five minutes. These resources have been produced by lecturers and students with the University of Westminster's School of Media and Communication.
Case Study Research
Quantitative Content Analysis
Qualitative Content Analysis
Social Media Research
Mixed Method Research
In this part, provide an accurate, detailed account of the methods and procedures that were used in the study or the experiment (if applicable!).
Include specifics about participants, sample, materials, design and methods.
If the research involves human subjects, then include a detailed description of who and how many participated along with how the participants were selected.
Describe all materials used for the study, including equipment, written materials and testing instruments.
Identify the study's design and any variables or controls employed.
Write out the steps in the order that they were completed.
Indicate what participants were asked to do, how measurements were taken and any calculations made to raw data collected.
Specify statistical techniques applied to the data to reach your conclusions.
Provide evidence that you incorporated rigor into your research. This is the quality of being thorough and accurate and considers the logic behind your research design.
Highlight any drawbacks that may have limited your ability to conduct your research thoroughly.
You have to provide details to allow others to replicate the experiment and/or verify the data, to test the validity of the research.
Cottrell, S. (2014). Dissertations and project reports: a step by step guide. Hampshire, England: Palgrave Macmillan.
Lombard, E. (2010). Primary and secondary sources. The Journal of Academic Librarianship , 36(3), 250-253
Saunders, M.N.K., Lewis, P. and Thornhill, A. (2015). Research Methods for Business Students. New York: Pearson Education.
Specht, D. (2019). The Media And Communications Study Skills Student Guide . London: University of Westminster Press.
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