Skip to main content

Primary Research

OWL logo

Welcome to the Purdue OWL

This page is brought to you by the OWL at Purdue University. When printing this page, you must include the entire legal notice.

Copyright ©1995-2018 by The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, reproduced, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our terms and conditions of fair use.

Note: This page offers a brief primer on primary research. For more information, see our dedicated set of pages on this topic.

Research isn't limited to finding published material on the Internet or at the library. Many topics you choose to write on may not already have been covered by an abundance of sources and hence may require a different kind of approach to conducting research. This approach involves collecting information directly from the world around you and can include interviews, observations, surveys, and experiments. These strategies are collectively called primary research.

For example, if you are writing about a problem specific to your school or local community, you may need to conduct primary research. You may be able to find secondary sources (such as those found at the library or online) on the more general topic you are pursuing, but may not find specifics on your school or town. To supplement this lack of sources, you can collect data on your own.

For example, Briel wants to research a proposed smoking ban in public establishments in Lafayette, Indiana. Briel begins by going to the library and then searching online. She finds information related to smoking bans in other cities around the United States, but only a few limited articles from the local newspaper on the ban proposed in Lafayette. To supplement this information, she decides to survey twenty local residents to learn what they think of the proposed smoking ban. She also decides to interview two local business owners to learn how they think the ban may affect their businesses. Finally, Briel attends and observes a town hall meeting where the potential ban is discussed.

Many different types of primary research exist. Some common types used in writing classes and beyond include: