Interviews, case studies, dissertations — you are most probably aware of primary research sources, but there might come instances when you won’t be able to conduct primary research.

What happens, then? You turn to secondary research sources for your essay.

Knowing how to conduct secondary research for your essay is very important. “Why” you wonder.

That’s exactly what this article will address. Read on to learn what are secondary research sources and how you can conduct secondary research for your high school or college essay.

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What are Secondary Sources in Research

Secondary research is a research method where you utilize existing data and compare and combine this data to your primary source of information.

No secondary research source can be created without having primary sources. It increases the overall effectiveness of the research, it's much more cost-effective than primary sources and doesn't require you to put in all the hard work and effort that is needed in finding your primary sources.

As for the information sourcing, it can either be a primary or a secondary research source based on who is presenting this information and where.

Primary Source

A primary source is one that you, as a writer, are analyzing first-hand without having an intermediary between you and the presented data.

For example, if your essay is on the theme of good conquering evil, you will be looking at novels or books like Harry Potter or the Tolkien franchise as the primary source.

Similarly, if you are looking to write on speech patterns and impediments, you can use online survey and interviews with people who have lived with these impediments. You will then analyze these interviews or surveys firsthand to get all the information you need to write your essay.

Secondary Source

A secondary source is a research source that has also done previous analysis on the same or similar topic. This is then used to relate to the information found in the primary source and compared and combined to form a comprehensive analysis.

When using secondary sources for your essays, your professor would see you as a credible writer, as using these sources show that you have not only used the first layer of sources but also looked into already analyzed works for lengthy and complete research on your essay topic.

For example, secondary sources will involve published journal articles on how Harry Potter or Tolkien references can be used to show good vs. evil, and a book for speech patterns and speech disorders or impediments can be used to get data for your essay.

This differentiation will make it easy for you to recognize and differentiate between primary and secondary sources. In any way, it is still always better to know what they are. Some types of secondary sources include:

  1. Articles, publications, journals, research papers.
  2. Documentaries, news articles.
  3. Critical reviews.
  4. Books, encyclopedias.
  5. Reading lists by your professors.
  6. Subject guides, reference books.
  7. Google Scholar to find reference sources online.

How to Conduct Secondary Research in 5 Steps

The key to writing a stellar essay is knowing how to conduct secondary research. Let’s take a look at how you can conduct secondary research for your essay in five simple steps.

Start with a Google search

Before starting your secondary research for your essay, search on Google for your given topic. This will give you a lot of results and links to research the subject you are planning to write your essay on. You also get a sense of the amount of information available as well as how credible the sources are.

For example, you can read and research any number of published articles that are online, and go through their previous versions for more information as well. This helps you build a base and understand the background of the topic before trying to work your way to the complex materials.

It is also important to note that Wikipedia is not a reliable primary or secondary research source.

Identify research sources

Identify reliable and authentic research source materials. In this process, you will read through and identify other research centers, organizations, or bloggers that have written or worked on your topic.

It’s a good idea to keep note of the research sources along the way so that you don’t have to hunt for them while writing the bibliography or citing sources.

Collate existing data

Gather all the data you find from your secondary research sources, and pick out the ones that are most relevant and important to your essay.

Check for any previous versions of these sources which are closely related to the topic. These sources can be found in public libraries, academic institutions, government and non-government agencies, and commercial information sources such as newspapers, TV channels, radio, magazines, etc.

Compare and combine

As soon as all your data is collected, you can start comparing the primary and secondary source information and combining them in one systematic structure.

Check for any missing knowledge or duplications that you may have looked over. Make sure to pick out relevant sources, as incorrect information can hamper your analysis.

Analyze comprehensive data

Analyze all the data collated and answer any questions that may come to mind. This will help you in getting a clear idea of your research essay and how to present it to your professor. Since these data are already researched and published, it can bolster your arguments and further your thesis, which has already been constructed based on available primary data.

4 Tips to Be Better at Conducting Secondary Research

Now that we know the basic methods of conducting secondary research for your essay, here are some important and helpful tips to keep in mind while using secondary research in your essays.

1. Use Google Scholar, add specific keywords related to your essay topic and find a good number of journal articles and books that you can use for your related subject matter.

This is one of the most common ways that students find secondary research sources for their assignments.

Here’s an interesting video by Tom Nicholas that talks about how to use Google Scholar to find journal articles

2. Read a lot of books that are related and relevant to your research topic. Books give detailed information, answering every question and filling the gaps which don't qualify for all research papers.

College and city libraries are the best places for students to find information for their assignments.

3. Sometimes, you can use ideas that are addressed by critics and apply them in your way in your essay.

Remember to do this when there are no topics that come to mind and to religiously cite the critic on your paper. You can also use these critics’ ideas to understand further, add support, and lay credible sources of information for your essay.

4. Try and use as many ideas as you can from your primary text as that is your first pass at gathering data about your essay topic. Understand and research thoroughly to gain solid knowledge about your assigned topic and to make it easier to pick out data from your secondary sources.

The takeaway

Secondary research for your research essays is as important as your primary research and can be much easier than being overworked and finding new information from your primary sources.

It is a cost-effective and time-saving method as it involves using existing pieces of information that people, organizations, or institutions have already analyzed, and it is easier to use because it doesn't involve spending time and finances on getting first-hand data.

These guidelines and best practices will help you conduct secondary research to write an interesting essay, get high grades, and impress your professors with your proactive approach, investigating abilities, and incisive researching skills.

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Custom Essays:

Crafted from Scratch for You.

Plagiarism Removal:

Ensuring Your Work’s Originality.

Rewriting & Paraphrasing:

Transform Your Draft into Excellence.

Editing & Proofreading:

Perfecting Your Paper’s Grammar, Style, and Format (APA, MLA, etc.).