Wikiversity was largely created for participants to engage in research. New participants are encouraged to be bold and be creative when creating or contributing to research, but what is research, and how can you do research? This page explores questions new researchers may have and a way that a research process might work.
What is research?
Research is an examination or investigation process that attempts to answer questions or check hypotheses. Any time you search for answers or test hypotheses you are doing research. You can search for answers and test hypotheses many ways, and consequently there are many forms of research.
Primary research is about obtaining an abundance of quality data or information. Good primary research collects a large, representative pool of data or information to examine. More data or information means any assessment of that data or information is more likely to be accurate. Conversely less data or information means less accuracy.
Examples of primary research:
- A government agency does primary research when collecting lots of information about their country's population through a census.
- A student does primary research when asking a bunch of fellow students what type of pizza they like.
Secondary research is about assessing existing knowledge. Good secondary research can often lead to new ways of looking at things and progress towards the creation of new knowledge. Awareness of past efforts can help save you time that might otherwise have been wasted recreating the wheel. A common way for Wikiversity participants to learn is to participate in secondary research projects that review existing literature, and compose summarizations of what was learned, which can in turn help other participants learn.
Examples of secondary research:
- Students do secondary research to write papers. Reading a large number of books about a subject, and taking notes.
- Authors of nonfiction books do secondary research so that their books will be correct.
For emerging academics, there is a natural progression from secondary research to primary (original) research.
Original research is about discovering new knowledge. Good original research is motivated by curiosity. Original research can be done anywhere, like in the workplace or in the field (called field work), but is often done in an academic or laboratory setting. You are doing original research anytime you attempt to discover something new that has never been published and peer reviewed.
Examples of original research:
- Scientists do original research when carrying out new experiments
- Anthropologists do original research when examining newly unearthed bones
What are research ethics?
Research ethics try to answer what actions are good, and what actions are bad. The key issues for research published on Wikiversity are:
- Verifiability: Fully document what methods are intended to be used and what methods were used. Explain any changes in methods used.
- Transparency: Allow participants to draw their own independent conclusions by clearly explaining every decision and endeavor undertaken in the course of the research in a open and transparent manner.
- Honesty: Report without omissions, even if portions are undesirable, don't fit predetermined beliefs, or initial hypotheses. Participants are not lead into drawing specific conclusions.
- Objectivity: Strive to conduct and report research in a way that allows experts to independently test, verify and confirm the validity of the research.
- Subjectivity: You are free to express your views and opinions, but they should be clearly identified as such.
- Sources: When sources of previous knowledge, data or other information is relied on cite your sources. This allows examination of those works too. Be clear to distinguish previous knowledge from new knowledge.
- Safety: Do no harm by conducting research in a safe and lawful manner.
- Consensual: Inform and ask for consent before involving others in your research. People, groups, and organizations must be willing participants.
- Disclosures: Report any held opinions and beliefs about the topic and any research subjects, anyone or anything involved in or backing the research, and the motivations for doing the research.
- Review process: Ask Wikiversity participants to review the research. This is an essential step for quality control and to ascertain the standing of a research project.
Following these basic principles will usually foster trust, and help the community to better understand your point of view.
How is research reported?
Research can be reported in many different ways. Sharing your research with other people can often feel overwhelming. This section explores ways you can share you research with Wikiversity participants.
Background information is what knowledge, data, or facts are known about a topic. It is usually obtained by reading or studying any existing material on the subject matter. It can help you to understand what the focus of your research should be, and can keep you from becoming overwhelmed. By including background information you can help your audience and yourself to better understand the effects of your research on existing knowledge. Good research reports should include background information that answers some questions readers might have. Table 1.1 includes some example questions that might help you when you are looking to include background information.
- What do you already know about the topic?
- What questions do you hope to answer?
- Why do you want answers?
- What do you think the answers are?
- How do you plan to get answers?
- What will the answers help you do?
- Who plans to help you find answers?
- Why are they helping you find answers?
- When do you plan to start looking for answers?
- How long do you think it will take to find answers?
- What steps do you intend to take to find answers?
- What hypotheses do you intend to evaluate?
- How do you intent to evaluate the hypotheses?
- What steps do you plan to take to evaluate hypotheses?
- What do you think the evaluation will show?
- What will evaluating the hypotheses help you do?
- When do you intend to do each step?
- How long do you think each step will take?
- Why do and share your research here?
- How does Wikiversity enable you get answers or evaluate hypotheses?
- How can other people contribute to and collaborate in the research?
- How will people be able to review and critique your research?
- How do you plan to ensure the integrity of your research?
- What will do you to ensure the integrity of your research?
- What tools or resources do you intend to use?
- Is anyone sponsoring or funding this research?
- Is anyone providing you with the tools or resources you need to do this research?