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Chapter 4. Solving Problems Through Adva... > Varieties of Secondary Research

Varieties of Secondary Research

It used to be that secondary research had no varieties. Researchers understood it to require a certain series of steps, but all were seen as parts of one process. Before the advent of electronic search programs, researchers would consult print indexes, such as Social Science Abstract, under topic headings where listings of publications would open up the possibilities of finding out what other researchers were thinking about, analyzing, and writing about with regard to the research problem at hand. The sources that researchers found (monographs, journal articles, reports from government and industry) not only provided reviews and analyses of research but also provided additional sources to be investigated through their citations and bibliographies.

Assembling a body of information was in itself not difficult, although it was time-consuming, but the more important chore was deciding on the usefulness and credibility of the sources. Given the area of investigation, the recency of secondary sources can be very important. In certain fields of science, engineering, and certainly technology, changes and progress happen so rapidly that it becomes imperative for researchers to consult the most current publications. This necessity does not mean, however, that publications gain credibility simply by their currency. It is also necessary that the credentials of the authors of publications be reviewed. Their reputations for responsible, intelligent, and useful research are essential to the place in the research community they are a part of. These measures to assess the value of secondary sources have remained essential to the productive conduct of research, but with the advent of the Internet and the Web, new pressures to assess sources adequately have arisen. The sheer burgeoning volume of Web sites on literally thousands of topics of inquiry has made the assessment of the quality of those sites more difficult, especially for beginning researchers. We will return to this problem later in this discussion.


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