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Peace Studies 205

Research process in brief

“The measure of greatness in a scientific idea is the extent to which it stimulates thought and opens up new lines of research.”Paul A.M. Dirac, English physicist, born 1902
"Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose." ― Zora Neale Hurston, pre-eminent twentieth-century writer, born 1891
Take all the courses in your curriculum. Do the research. Ask questions. Find someone doing what you are interested in! Be curious! ― Katherine Johnson, American physicist, born 1918

Library basics

Here are some library research basics that I think you probably know before you get to PCE 205.  Please let me know if you would like a refresher on any of them.

  • Comfort navigating the library web page
  • Experience with more than one research data base. Basics of keyword searching, Boolean (combining terms) operators, and truncation
  • Understand the difference between an article, a journal and a database
  • How to find a book in the library catalog and on the shelf
  • Understand the advantages of using library databases over the open web
  • Understand the need to cite sources and how to find advice in doing so
  • Understand the basics of determining the validity of an article/website
  • How to read/write a citation – like recognizing when you are looking for a book rather than an article

Primary, Secondary, Tertiary Source Differences

Primary sources are original materials on which other research is based.

They are from the time period involved and have not been filtered through interpretation or evaluation

They are usually the first formal appearance of results in physical, print or electronic format. They present original thinking, report a discovery, or share new information.

Examples include:

  • Literary creation: novels, short stories, poems, etc. 
  • Artifacts (e.g. coins, plant specimens, fossils, furniture, tools, clothing, all from the time under study);
  • Audio recordings (e.g. radio programs)
  • Diaries;
  • Internet communications on email, listservs;
  • Interviews (e.g., oral histories, telephone, e-mail);
  • Journal articles published in peer-reviewed publications;
  • Letters;
  • Newspaper articles written at the time;
  • Original Documents (i.e. birth certificate, will, marriage license, trial transcript);
  • Patents;
  • Photographs
  • Proceedings of Meetings, conferences and symposia;
  • Records of organizations, government agencies (e.g. annual report, treaty, constitution, government document);
  • Speeches;
  • Survey Research (e.g., market surveys, public opinion polls);
  • Video recordings (e.g. television programs);
  • Works of art, architecture, literature, and music (e.g., paintings, sculptures, musical scores, buildings, novels, poems).
  • Web site.

Secondary sources are less easily defined than primary sources.

Generally, they are accounts written after the fact with the benefit of hindsight.

They are interpretations and evaluations of primary sources.

Secondary sources are not evidence, but rather commentary on and discussion of evidence.

However, what some define as a secondary source, others define as a tertiary source. Context is everything.

Examples include:

  • Bibliographies (also considered tertiary);
  • Biographical works;
  • Commentaries, criticisms;
  • Dictionaries, Encyclopedias (also considered tertiary);
  • Histories;
  • Literary criticism such as Journal articles;
  • Magazine and newspaper articles;
  • Monographs, other than fiction and autobiography;
  • Textbooks (also considered tertiary);
  • Web site (also considered primary).

Tertiary sources consist of information which is a distillation and collection of primary and secondary sources.

Examples include:

  • Almanacs;
  • Bibliographies (also considered secondary);
  • Chronologies;
  • Dictionaries and Encyclopedias (also considered secondary);
  • Directories;
  • Fact books;
  • Guidebooks;
  • Indexes, abstracts, bibliographies used to locate primary and secondary sources;
  • Manuals;
  • Textbooks (also be secondary).
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