Published on February 17, 2014
Finding Primary Research Articles
What are secondary sources? Examples of secondary sources: academic textbooks, literature reviews and information on the web. These are useful for providing background information about a subject to help you broaden your perspective and research. They offer analysis, commentary and opinions on primary sources and synthesise and summarise existing research and ideas. They are usually written by subject specialists or academics rather than researchers.
What are primary sources? • Examples of primary sources: research articles, newspaper articles, photographs, and diaries. They refer to original research, events, documents etc. • In the health professions primary research is original research leading to new knowledge which informs professional practice. • Primary sources are the works that are analysed and interpreted to create secondary sources. • Primary research will be either quantitative or qualitative or sometimes a mixture (referred to as mixed methods).
Conducting primary research Primary data is collected by the researcher using one of the following methodologies or methods: Quantitative research Experiments Quasi-experiments RCTs Cohort studies Case studies Longitudinal studies Observation Questionnaires Qualitative research Interviews Semi-structured interviews Focus groups Life histories Narrative Diaries
Limiting to primary research Most journal articles contain abstracts which provide a short overview of the article. Abstracts describe the research methodology, how the data was collected and how the study was conducted. An easy way to limit to primary research is to search for the word study The next step is to combine this search (using AND) with the results of your topic search.
What is quantitative research? Quantitative research is generally used when a lot is already known about a subject. Data is often used to test existing theories. Deductive reasoning tends to be associated with quantitative research and theory testing. It attempts to find cause and effect relationships or to compare different approaches to care. It uses a carefully controlled representative sample.
Limiting to quantitative articles An easy way to limit to quantitative research is to search for words describing appropriate research methodologies or data collection methods. The following search string could be entered: quantitative OR experimental OR quasiexperimental OR RCT* OR “randomised control trial*” OR cohort * You would then need to combine this search with your subject search.
What is qualitative research? Qualitative research is associated with inductivism and theory building and is generally used to build theories when little is known about a subject. Essentially it is the study of why things happen. It explores feelings, experiences, perceptions, attitudes, beliefs, preferences and thoughts. It collects detailed information about patients and carers experiences & behaviours. It uses small groups of people chosen to provide interesting or important insights e.g. hard to reach groups. The quality of the data is more important than the quantity.
What is qualitative research? It is responsive to the context and to the participants. It aims to study things in their natural setting rather than in a laboratory. It is a subjective measurement of the processes that underlie behavioural patterns. Likewise, the readers own response to the study will also be subjective. By finding out about human behaviour steps can be taken to improve nursing outcomes e.g. by providing better support, treatment and care. Grounded theory, phenomenology and ethnography are key types of research methodology used in qualitative research.
Limiting to qualitative articles An easy way of limiting to qualitative research is to search for words describing appropriate research methodologies or data collection methods. The following search string could be entered: Qualitative OR ethnograph* OR phenomenolog* OR “grounded theory” OR diary OR diaries OR opinion* OR “focus group*” OR interview* OR “life histor*” OR experiences OR voice* OR narrative* OR “daily life” OR “quality of life” You would then need to combine this search with your subject search.
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