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Research Process


One way to think about originality in research is to think about how many times someone else has analyzed information. These can be described as primary, secondary, and tertiary information, and often instructors want you to use primary sources so they can see what you have to say about the information you find. The gallery provides information about and examples of primary, secondary, and tertiary resources:



First-hand accounts or documents related to the topic from people who had a direct connection with it, such as speeches, diaries, letters, interviews, photographs, original research, and dataset. They can be found in archives, historic newspaper databases, scholarly journal articles, image databases, and data resources.

Example: An original handwritten poem by Frederick Douglass, held in the Xavier archives.



Resources that add some interpretation, analysis, or provide context for primary sources. Books, articles, and documentaries that are about a topic are most likely secondary sources. They can be found in print or electronic books, database articles that are not based on original research, and documentaries.

Example: The "About this Collection" description and contextualization of the poem "Liberty" by Frederick Douglass



Resources used to find primary or secondary sources or give general information rather than analysis. It can be found in reference materials such as encyclopedias, dictionaries, background databases and some websites.

Example: Frederick Douglass page on, which shares basic facts of his life and the text of the poem.

More about Original Research

As you participate in the scholarly conversation, it is important to understand what kinds of original research are being done by academics and how that fits with the research you are doing. Most original research is done as either qualitative or quantitative:

Characteristics of Qualitative and Quantitative Research
Qualitative Quantitative
  • interprets non-numerical data, such as interviews, documents, or case studies.
  • allows for exploration within a focused area
  • draws conclusions from what was discovered
  • interprets numerical data, such as experiment results or surveys
  • tests relationship between variables
  • uses data to answers an established question (hypothesis)

From Research to Publication: The Life of a Journal Article

1. Conduct Original Research

Original research is done when the researchers are responsible for the entire process of coming up with a hypothesis, a means for testing the hypothesis, defending their hypothesis based on prior research, and gathering and analyzing the data, and explaining their findings. This is often done by scientists, doctors, college professors, or people working within a field of study.

2. Write

Researchers must present their findings in a very thorough manner so that other researchers could replicate their work and reach the same conclusions. Their writing must follow specific style rules and writing conventions that match the preference of the publication, or journal, where they will submit their work.

3. Submit to Editor

The journal editor's initial job it is it make sure that the submission matches the subject matter of the journal and is written according to the style rules for their publication. The editor then identifies other people who are experts on the same content the article is about, or peers, and sends the article for them to read.

4. Peer Review

The peer group of experts receives the article and reviews the content to ensure that the science being used to do the research is reasonable, the data was conducted accurately, analyzed in a way that is free of errors, and the authors have reached a conclusion that is supported by their research. They then respond to the editor letting them know whether they feel the article is ready for publication.

5. Editor Decisions

The editor reviews the feedback of the peer group and decides if the research article should be accepted for publication, rejected, or sent back to the authors for revisions based on peer feedback. 

6. Published

If the editor accepts the article for publication, it is now available to be published in that journal. Depending on the frequency, method, and business model of the publication, it can take a year or more for the article to become available for others to read.