Secondary research is the basis of the most undergraduate study. You need to read articles on the internet, research papers on international journal databases and explore what other people have already written on the topic you are interested in or studying in for your degree. Even for primary research, secondary research is essential as most people use secondary research before going out into the field and conducting primary research.
Here are a few tips on how to conduct secondary research
1) Conduct a basic google search on the topic: A basic google search can give you a lot of results on the subject you are exploring. You can get a sense of the information that is out there in the world regarding the topic. For instance, you can read as many articles as you want that is published online, and you can learn a lot about the current and previous issues relating to the topic. You do not need to read journal articles until you have a good base and background on the subject so that it will be easier for you to understand more complex material written on the topic. For undergraduate study, you mostly can refer to any website except Wikipedia, but even Wikipedia can be useful for getting background on the topic.
2) Search specific keywords on Google Scholar: When you are ready and feel like you know about the topic based on basic google search, you can go to Google Scholar which is the database for most journal articles and books on related topics. This is the most common way in which students get secondary material for their articles. Your university or college will give you access to Google Scholar articles in most instances or other similar database searches on journal articles; this would mean you do not have to pay for buying the journal articles, which is a massive reward of being a university student! A journal article, although mostly based on primary research, will give you a lot of secondary information and background about the topic but in an academic sense rather than a basic google search.
3) Read books on the topic: In most instances, your college library will have many books on the topic or if they don’t then you can try the city library which will most likely have books on the topic. After reading journal articles relating to the topic, you can dwell more into comprehensive books on the topic to gain a better secondary research understanding of the topic. This will be useful for your reference list as it would mean that you have read multiple books by leading academics on the topic. A book also gives you more detailed information regarding the gaps in the research and also what can be done in the future, if you are going into primary research later on.
4) Start writing your essay or assignment: After using the above techniques, you can start writing an essay about the topic, as most essays require secondary material and do not require you to conduct primary research. You need to be familiar with the reference style and layout of your specific college or university for writing the assignment. By looking at secondary research, you will know how people have written about the topic before and you can follow a similar structure. It would be better if you use direct quotes from the books or journal articles so that you sound more professional and you will be likely to get a higher mark.
The above tips are just general guidelines for secondary research. It follows my previous article on how to conduct primary research and is a follow up from there. However, secondary research should be done before primary research to gain a better understanding of academic studies. Primary research is mostly used for postgraduate studies whereas secondary research is familiar from undergraduate studies. It would be very beneficial for you to follow these research articles if you have a topic you are interested in and want to conduct further research on the topic. Academic writing is not easy, but with practice, anyone interested can achieve it.