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Extended Essay: Research

Research is FUN

What is Research?

Generally, research is the organized and systematic method of finding answers to questions.  It is systematic because it is a process broken up into clear steps that lead to conclusions and it is organized because there is a planned structure or method used to reach the conclusion. Simply, research is the ongoing conversation and/or answering the questions. 


Purpose of Research (Why do we do research?)

As indicated above, the primary purpose of research is to find answers to questions or find a solution to a problem. Research allows us to find the right solutions to key issues in our communities by:

  • providing facts that will help us to analyze the problem;
  • testing the feasibility and the impact of programmes; and
  • finding better solutions to the challenges.

In addition, research can ...

  • confirm what you were already sure of.

  • give your views and arguments substance.

  • give you new information.
  • show you what is most likely to address your issue successfully.
  • provide you with anecdotes and examples to use.

Much of the terminology that researchers use is unfamiliar to others. In this section, we explain the terms most commonly used in DP research.

  • Data - factual information [as measurements or statistics] used as a basis for reasoning, discussion, or calculation.
  • Hypothesis - a tentative explanation based on theory to predict a causal relationship between variables.
  • Mixed Method - a research approach that uses two or more methods from both the quantitative and qualitative research categories. It is also referred to as blended methods or combined methods.
  • Peer-review - the process in which the author of a book, article, or other types of publication submits his or her work to experts in the field for critical evaluation, usually prior to publication. This is standard procedure in publishing scholarly research.
  • Research Question - A research question is an answerable inquiry into a specific concern or issue. It is the initial step in a research project.
  • Research Topic - A research topic is a subject or issue that a researcher is interested in when conducting research.
  • Research Method - systematic approaches to the conduct of an operation or process. It includes steps of the procedure, application of techniques, systems of reasoning or analysis, and the modes of inquiry employed by a discipline.
  • Research Methodology - a theory or analysis of how research does and should proceed.
  • Population - he target group under investigation. The population is the entire set under consideration. Samples are drawn from populations.
  • Questionnaire - A questionnaire is a research instrument consisting of a series of questions (or other types of prompts) for the purpose of gathering information from respondents.
  • Sample - The group of subjects (people) from whom the data are collected.
  • Scholarly article/work - Scholarly or peer-reviewed journal articles are written by scholars or professionals who are experts in their fields. 
  • Survey - an examination of opinions, behavior, etc., made by asking people questions.
  • Variable - any characteristic or trait that can vary from one person to another [race, gender, academic major] or for one person over time [age, political beliefs].

Comprehensive research terminology can be found here.

There are different types of research activities that can assist you in undertaking research. In this section we touch on some basic methods:

Primary Research  Secondary Research

Primary research (field research) involves gathering new data that has not been collected before. 

It is based on raw data.

Secondary research (desk research) involves gathering existing data that has already been produced. 

It is based on analyzed and interpreted information.


  • Interviews (telephone or face-to-face)
  • Surveys (online or mail) 
  • Questionnaires (online or mail)
  • Focus groups
  • Visits to competitors' locations           


  • researching the internet, newspapers and company reports 
  • reading articles in magazines, trade journals and industry publications 
  • by visiting a reference library, and by contacting industry associations or trade organizations
  • Desktop research refers to seeking facts, general information on a topic, historical background, study results, etc., that have been published or exist in public documents. This information can be obtained from libraries, newspaper archives, government, university, websites, NGOs and CBOs etc. 
  • Interviews and conversations are used when you want to find out about the community's past experience with an issue. The best way to find it is usually by talking to individuals. For example, it may be best to talk to local community leaders to collect information on the history of an area. You may use informal conversations, structured interviews, or a combination to get as much information as possible. Sometimes, it is useful to ask questions of a group of people (for example, in a workshop situation@Focus group), as this can stimulate different views and discussion.
  • Surveys are used if you want to know what most people in the community think or feel about an issue.  For example, how many people would take advantage of a service if it were available? A survey is a way to reach a lot of people in a short space of time. A survey usually consists of a list of simple questions on a topic and may include some chance for respondents to express a broader opinion or comment on the issue. You can conduct surveys by post, phone, in person, by e-mail, on a website, or by making them available in public places.

The information that is collected through these methods is either quantitative or qualitative in nature. Quantitative research depends on numbers and statistical procedures. For example, a household income survey is a quantitative survey that looks at the average household income in an area.

Information can also be qualitative - based on observations of behavior, participants' reports of how they or their lives have changed, etc.  For example, the Department of Transport may want to find out the impact of its Rural Tram service using a qualitative study in areas that are usually high accident zones. Here the researchers will observe how road users conduct themselves in these areas and in addition speak to a sample of them to find out what impact the television and radio advertisements have had on their behavior on the roads. 

Some studies seek to understand cause and effect - what causes something else to happen or the connection between two factors. For example, the Department of Water Affairs may want to find the cause of certain rivers being highly polluted and the effect this has on the lives of people living along these rivers. 

Some studies are conducted to find answers to very specific questions.  For example, the Department of Agriculture may want to find out whether maize or pumpkins are the best crops to grow in a particular area as part of a poverty alleviation project.

  • Case studies that describe the experience of individuals or groups affected by an issue can be very effective for research that aims to change a situation or influence decision-makers. Politicians and the public are often more easily swayed by stories they can identify with than by statistics. Finding people who can provide convincing first-hand information is an important part of a research. Key people and activists in the target community are good sources for finding people who can provide first-hand information. For example, the Department of Social Services and Population Development may want to find out the impact of drought on a rural village. Local people who have lived in the area for a long time will be able to provide compelling stories and anecdotal information on the impact of drought in the area and how the community has coped with this over the years.

However, based on its PURPOSE,  there are three (3) types of research. Such as-

1. Exploratory Research: As the name suggests, exploratory research is conducted to explore the research questions and may or may not offer a final conclusion to the research conducted. It is conducted to handle new problem areas which haven’t been explored before. Exploratory research lays the foundation for more conclusive research and data collection. For example, a research conducted to know the level of customer satisfaction among the patrons of a restaurant.

2. Descriptive Research: Descriptive research focuses on throwing more light on current issues through a process of data collection. Descriptive studies are used to describe the behavior of a sample population. In descriptive research, only one variable (anything that has quantity or quality that varies) is required to conduct a study. The three main purpose of descriptive research is describing, explaining and validating the findings. For example, a research conducted to know if top-level management leaders in the 21st century posses the moral right to receive a huge sum of money from the company profit?

3. Explanatory Research: Explanatory research or causal research, is conducted to understand the impact of certain changes in existing standard procedures. Conducting experiments is the most popular form of casual research. For example, research conducted to understand the effect of rebranding on customer loyalty.



Data can be said to be valid if it provides an accurate picture of the reality it is referring to. When it comes to research, often one would seek either a total sample size or a random selection of a broad enough cross-section of that group.


If you use the same method as a previous researcher and get similar consistent results, then the method you've used is considered "reliable". This may often mean repeating the exact same questionnaire used by another researcher with all members of the chosen sample, or relying on a method that another expert in the field employs for similar investigations.

Values & Limitations

It is vital, in all instances, that a consideration of the value and limitations of the selected research is offered as it, more than anything, demonstrates a balanced and measured approach to data that is a requisite feature of all good academic writing.

Quantitative vs Qualitative 

There are two types of data that we usually end up with as a result of our primary research. Quantitative data is information represented in number form or something that can be measured. Qualitative data usually takes the form of description that can reveal people's feelings about an event, people's emotional states and opinions.

Adapted from Scotch College, 

Research skills are a central element of the inquiry-based pedagogy of IB programmes. According to IB, fundamental research skills include formulating focused and precise research questions, appraising sources, recording, analysing, evaluating and synthesizing information, and presenting and evaluating results (IB EEG, 2018). 

You have been assigned a research paper for a class. You are told to find information from several different kinds of sources, but not to use the class textbook. Your paper has to present and discuss an idea and take a position about it at the conclusion. What do you do, and how do you start?


Choose a Topic

  • Find a subject area that interests and challenges you. You might have studied a certain topic in class that you would like to research further or you may be able to research and write about something you are particularly interested in. Writing about what you know can help you throughout the entire researching and writing process.
  • If you are having trouble finding a suitable topic that interests you, read through some current newspapers and magazines or you may search online. You might find a news story or a subject area that you would like to research further.
  • You can also use the Questia Topic Finder listing to help select your topic. You can also use Questia Topic Generator.
  • Once you have chosen a topic, decide whether you need to narrow or broaden its focus. If your topic is too broad, you might become overwhelmed by the number of resources available on the subject and your research paper may prove almost impossible to write. On the other hand, if your topic is too narrow, you might have trouble finding resources and your paper might not be long enough. For example, writing about the Internet is too broad. Writing about publishing on the Internet is narrower. Writing about one document published on the Internet might be too narrow!
  • Ask yourself some questions about the topic. These questions will help you to focus on a certain issue or problem. One of these questions will form your research question, which your thesis statement will answer. For example, if you chose to write about publishing on the Internet, your research question might be “Has the fact that it is so easy to publish on the Internet made it difficult for students to find reliable information?”


Choose a Thesis Statement

  • Your thesis statement is the foundation of your research paper and is an answer to the research question that you formulated. Your thesis statement is not the title of your paper; it is often a single sentence that summarizes the argument you intend to make or the point you want to prove throughout your paper.
  • A thesis statement should be something that you can argue or debate; it should not be a fact. It focuses on a particular aspect of an issue and indicates the side you intend to take. For example, a thesis statement that says “Anyone can publish on the Internet” is a fact. Most people already know this and it is not something that can really be debated. However, a statement such as “Because of the ease with which material can be published online and the growing number of user-edited Web sites, many students find it difficult to find reliable information on the Internet” is a statement that can be debated. It also indicates the side you intend to take on an issue (that it is difficult to find reliable online information).
  • Because it is the basis of your paper, the thesis statement should be found in the introductory paragraph or near the beginning of your paper.
  • Your thesis statement may change to some extent after you have conducted research. You might have a new idea you want to include or you may wish to change the focus of the statement. As you write your paper, remember to change your thesis statement if you think it needs to be changed. 


Conduct Research

  • Once you have written a preliminary thesis statement, you will need to conduct research. Look through any bibliographies or lists of suggested reading material that your teacher distributed in class. Are any of these titles about your topic? Often, these lists can be great starting points for research.
  • Visit the school library- discuss with the teacher-librarian. Type words from your thesis statement into the library’s catalog. Read through the list of titles and write down the call numbers for any books or journals that are of interest.
  • Use the variety of online databases that your school library subscribes to. See ICS Database list here. Subscription databases contain up-to-date, authoritative information on a huge variety of topics. Most databases allow you to search by relevance, which means that the most important articles are listed at the top of your results list. Some databases even contain current newspaper and magazine articles, as well as live news feeds from major media outlets. Your friendly teacher-librarians are always ready to help, so see them at your suitable time. 
  • Once you have gathered some reading material together, examine each source carefully. Decide whether the source is useful by:
    • Checking the date of when it was written. For some subjects, the date is not important, but for others it is crucial. For example, if you wish to write about the Internet, a book dated before the mid-1990s probably will not contain any information about it. However, if you want to write about the American Revolution, it may not matter how old the book is. Also, remember to check the date of journals, newspapers, magazines, and database articles.
    • Checking the author’s credentials. Who wrote the book or journal article? How can you tell if it is authoritative? How can you tell if it is reliable? Often, a good indicator is checking who published the book or article. If it is published by an academic institution or a news agency, it is generally trustworthy and reliable. If it is by someone who you think might have a bias, be a little more suspicious. Remember that people can omit or skew facts. For example, a conservative news source and a liberal news source might both write about the same story but treat it in very different ways and give different information! Consult this document to learn how to find and justify scholarly resources.  
    • Reading selectively. Read through a book’s table of contents and index to see if it contains any material on your chosen topic. If you are still not sure about its usefulness, read the introduction or the opening and closing paragraphs. Read the abstract before reading a journal article; an abstract summarizes the entire article and is an excellent guide to the article’s worth. Read through a database article’s opening and closing paragraphs to determine whether it is of use to your paper. Follow this guide to understand the strategic reading for doing research.
  • Search the Internet. Remember to search the Internet with care! Although the World Wide Web is an excellent resource, anyone can publish online. How can you tell if this information is trustworthy? For more information on choosing reliable Web sites, consult this document.
  • Take notes. No matter which source you use, you will need to take notes that you can use when writing your paper. Write or type down all the information about your source at the top of the page; you will need this information when you compile your works cited or references list. Summarize key points in your own words i.e. paraphrase. If you wish to use another’s exact phrase or sentence, place it in quotation marks or highlight it so that you know this is someone else’s phrase. Draw a circle on your own ideas or highlight them so that you know they are yours. There are many note taking software freely available such as Evernote and Diigo.
  • Avoid information overload. Because information is so readily available today, it can be easy to read too much about your topic. Ensuring that your topic is narrow enough will help somewhat to avoid this, as will allowing your paper’s length to guide you. For example, if your paper is 5 pages, read roughly 5 to 8 sources on your topic. If it is 10 pages, read about 10 to 12 sources on your topic. Remember that it is much better to read 5 reputable articles on your topic than 25 untrustworthy articles that vaguely relate to your topic!


Make an Outline

  • The outline serves as a type of roadmap for your research paper. It lists in order each of the main points you wish to argue in your paper. As you write your paper, it will serve as a reminder of the points you want to make and will help you avoid writing about irrelevant information.
  • Begin by reading through your notes. Then write your thesis statement at the top of the page. Underneath the statement, write down each of the main points you want to make in your paper (leave some space between each point). Underneath each point, write down about three facts or pieces of information that support that point.
  • Examine the outline. Could some related points be grouped together? Do any of your points appear to be weak? If so, you may need to conduct some extra research on that point. Do the points support your thesis statement? If they do not, you may need to revise your statement.
  • Decide the order in which your points will be argued. Arrange your points in the way that best fits your research paper. Remember to include a sentence at the end of each point that shows how the point and facts or pieces of information support your thesis statement.


Write a Draft

  • Before you begin writing a draft, make sure that you have written a preliminary thesis statement, have conducted research and made an outline. These parts of the research writing process are essential to writing a research paper.
  • Your first draft will probably be very rough and disorganized. Do not be concerned if this is how your first draft reads. The purpose of writing a draft is to flesh out your ideas and produce new material. Try not to revise your sentences as you write; you will have time in the end to revise your paper.
  • Try not to procrastinate! Many students put off writing a paper until the night before it is due because they are not sure how to begin. Allow yourself enough time to write a rough draft before you write the final version—there is a big difference between the two.
  • Many students and writers suffer from writer’s block. If this happens, read through your outline. Try to find a section that you really want to write about or that looks inviting. You do not have to write about each section in order; writing is often not a linear process. If you still have trouble, try reading through your notes and outline or reading anything you have already written. Lastly, do not be afraid of how your writing sounds at this point. Remember that you will have time in the end to revise your paper.
  • Use your outline to help you achieve unity. Each point you make should have its own paragraph, and the main idea of the paragraph should be covered in a single sentence, preferably located at the beginning of the paragraph. Your paragraph should not discuss other points. For example, if you are writing about the reliability of user-edited Web sites, you should not discuss the technology behind those sites in the same paragraph.
  • Keep your points obvious and coherent. Do not assume that a reader will be able to deduce your exact meaning. Try to keep your points as clear as possible. Use the keywords from your thesis statement as often as possible and connect your ideas together by using transitional words and phrases such as “therefore,” “thus,” “in addition,” “as demonstrated,” etc.
  • Use your sources as support. A research paper should contain references to supporting sources but should contain your ideas, too. When you use sources, try to put others’ ideas and sentences into your own words. (Remember to include a parenthetical reference or a footnote.) Only use quotes if you think it is really necessary. If you do include a quote, remember to include an in-depth explanation of it and introduce it by stating something like “As stated by Hossain ...; Nguyen argued that ...”
  • Include parenthetical references or footnotes as you write your draft. Include information about your sources as you write. This will help you to avoid unintentional plagiarism and will save you time when you are revising your paper. It is much easier to reference your sources as you write than to insert all references at the end.


Write the Final Version

  • If you have not already done so, write the introduction. Sometimes it is easier to write the introduction to your argument after you have argued it. Write a sentence that will serve to introduce your thesis statement. If you wish, begin the introduction with a quotation, an interesting fact, or a question. You should also identify the main topic and research question of your paper and provide some general background in the introduction paragraph. If your introduction is particularly long, feel free to break it up into several paragraphs.
  • Refine/ rewrite your thesis statement if you feel that your paper does not fit your thesis statement. 
  • Write the conclusion. Writing a conclusion can be the most difficult part of writing a research paper. Your conclusion should restate your thesis statement, but should also show why it is significant. Do not just summarize your paper—leave your reader with an understanding of your argument. You might decide to end your paper with a question, what further research could be done, an appropriate quotation, or a possible solution. It is important to include a strong conclusion; your paper should not just trail away at the very end.
  • Check the layout of your paper. Does each point have its own paragraph? Are any of your paragraphs too long or too short? Are you satisfied with how each point flows into the next? Are you satisfied with the facts or pieces of information that support each point? Do any of them sound weak or unconvincing? You might decide that some material needs to be moved to a different section or that another sentence is needed. You might decide that some material needs to be cut or replaced with a different paragraph.
  • Decide on a title. If you can choose your own title, it can help to write it after you have written your paper. For example, you might title a paper on the reliability of user-edited Web sites as “User-Edited Web Sites: Are they reliable sesource?”


Copyedit and Proofread

  • Read through your paper again and over again! It is good practice to read it after a few days you have finished writing it. Often, you will spot mistakes that you may not see if you read it as soon as you have finished writing it. Sometimes it can be helpful to have a teacher, parent or friend read it, too.
  • When copyediting and proofreading your paper, check your spelling and grammar. Do not rely on a computer’s spell check to find mistakes! Spell check will not find all spelling and grammatical mistakes. For example, it will not differentiate between “their” and “there.”
  • Check your parenthetical citations (in-text citation) or footnotes. Each time you quoted, paraphrased or used someone else’s ideas you should have included a parenthetical citation or footnote. Are these all completed?
  • Check your works cited or reference list. Your works cited or reference list should be accurate based on the style or standard  (MLA, APA ...) you follow. Make sure that any source mentioned in your paper (in the text) are listed in the works cited or reference list. If you read a source but did not use it in your paper, make sure it is not in your works cited or references list.

Charles Darwin University. Researching and Reading: Effective reading strategies. <>

Questia School. Find a topic idea. <!/topic-ideas/>

“Writing a Research Paper.” World News Digest. Infobase Learning, n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2017. <;

A - Z Research Databases



Oregon School Library Information System (OSLIS). Learn to Research. Research to Learn. <​>

Understanding research by Education and Training Unit (ETU), South Africa <>