What is research? How do you define it?

Research is looking into a subject at a deeper level. Learning things that you may not know or understand before then.

Qualitative and Quantitative research

Qualitative: Based on appreciation and value or quality.

Quantitative: Based on numbers or quantity.

Primary and Secondary Sources

Primary Sources: First-hand accounts, original artefacts.

Secondary Sources: When things appear in print, film, audio or some other recorded or secondary manner.

Example: Facebook can be considered both in the right situation things from the news feed can be from other sources so it’s considered secondary sources as it’s not the original post from the creator it’s just shared. Primary sources can be located on Facebook like an artist’s Facebook page will more than likely have original sources which is considered as primary sources.

Objective and Subjective

Objective: ‘true’ no such thing as truth

Subjective: you + feelings it’s about you!

Why do research? For example:

  • To find things out/know more about/learn specific answers
  • For inspiration
  • To base your work on the learning of others (don’t reinvent the wheel)
  • To know how to do something
  • To confirm an idea
  • To discount an idea
  • To justify your practical work or academic ideas
  • To be professional, academic and believable
  • To be transparent
  • To become an expert and to enter a community of knowledge

Different kinds of research

Directed research: ‘Book learning’ – Looking up what others have already said. Practical work and experiments. Analysis of objects, experiences and so on.

Undirected research: Serendipity – Is discovery that wasn’t purposefully done but was caused trying to discover something in the purpose of whatever.

Places to look for research

Know what you want the material for. Know what might be appropriate.

Look for inspiration which could be Internet, blogs, television, film, nature, fashion, people, own experiments basically everywhere.

Academic knowledge: Printed books, museums and galleries, journals, conferences and talks, employer forums, businesses and universities and so on. Published content.

Where is the academic internet?

  • Websites, libraries and online publications of reliable and appropriate organisations.
  • TED talks, YouTube from reliable sources (universities, museums etc.)
  • Google scholar, academic papers online
  • Blogs – professional blogs of professionals like scientists, artists and so on

Research tips

  • Start small
  • Get an overview – Wikipedia, small book or article
  • Then focus on answering the questions to get the information
  • Reference as you go
  • Make notes – on photocopies or audio, or type up small sets of notes
  • You WILL forget unless you jot it down


You need to reference to show that your sources are legitimate and appropriate.

Tip: Keep all of your references as you go along

Keep everything ordered

  • File it carefully (Hard copy or digital)
  • Name it all
  • Reference it

Tip: You will not remember where it came from if you do not do this

What do you do with research?

  • Make analysis of it
  • Discuss it
  • Conclude from it
  • Use it to help make your written or practical work
  • Synthesise – blend the knowledge from it into your own work outcomes

Tips for better research

  • Do it
  • Know what you are looking for
  • Know where to look
  • Be open to sources
  • Know when to stop
  • Be open about conclusions
  • Make sure you take on board what you find out
  • Make a plan from your research
  • Reference it