Selecting Research

RDI Network
September 2021
5 min read

Where do we begin when researching?

  • What information do you require? Your information needs will depend on your research question but could include a definition of the concept being studied, statistics, a historical overview, academic research, reports and personal stories.
  • Start with background reading. This provides a general understanding of your research area, helps to clarify the concepts and terms in your research question, and assess the usefulness of the references that you find.
  • Gather multiple sources. This deepens your research and will better support your conclusions. But for your research to be persuasive, your sources must also be good quality.

Types of sources

  • Primary and secondary sources. In development research, a primary source involves original research where the researcher has collected data directly, or the data itself such as interview transcripts or survey data. Secondary sources are based on, interpret on comment on primary sources such as journal article that review previous research but don’t present new data.
  • Academic and scholarly sources. Written by experts for others working or studying the field, they include some books, journal articles, theses and working papers.
  • Peer reviewed sources. Journal articles, and often academic book manuscripts and conference papers are peer reviewed by experts in the discipline, as an assurance of quality.
  • Grey literature. Documents and other materials that are often published directly by the organization, rather than a commercial publisher.

How to evaluate sources?

  • Relevance. The source needs to provide information that is useful for answering your research question.
  • Currency. The information needs to be sufficiently up to date for your topic.
  • Availability. The information should be traceable in the future.
  • Credibility. Credible sources are transparent about the purpose of the writing and its audience, how the research agenda is set, how the data has been gathered and interpreted.
  • Authority. This relates to where and by whom evidence is presented, for instance, the author’s background or whether the source has been published by a reputable organization. It also relates to how the evidence is received.

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