Primary and Secondary Research

Project 1 Primary and Secondary Research

This assignment has three parts: an annotated bibliography, interview plan and reflection. Please read through this document before proceeding.

To support your analysis of a problem, you need to present evidence that readers will consider persuasive. In addition to your own observations and experience, there are three basic types of information you will be relying on:

  • The results of empirical studies or historical research found in scholarly and popular books, in journals, and on websites. This is typically called secondary research, as it is research originally conducted by someone else, usually a scholar. This kind of research is often used to provide a more general or bird’s-eye view of a specific issue.

  • Documents from government sites, press releases, corporate documents, popular news articles, magazines and other miscellaneous sources. This can also be considered secondary research, though it may not be conducted by scholars. This kind of research is often helpful for supporting more local or specific claims about a problem or solution, though it may also be helpful for discussing your topic in a general way. 

  • The results of interviews, surveys or observations that you yourself conduct. This is called primaryresearch, as you are the primary author of this information. This kind of research is often, but not always, used to show personal or highly specific examples of an issue, or to further support the general claims found in secondary research.

Investigating and compiling different types of research sources will help you analyze various aspects of your problem. Note that you may not end up using all of these sources in your essay. You might find out later that they aren’t relevant or are not as credible as other research you have found. This is ok – the research process can be messy at times.

Part 1: Annotated Bibliography – Secondary Research

  1. To get started, first write down your proposed topic – a problem in your community or occupation – at the top of your submission. This will help you focus your inquiry and will also help your instructor understand how your sources might support claims about your topic.

  2. Next, you will want to compile a list of at least five secondary sources.
  3. Two of the sources should be academic studies or peer-reviewed journal articles found through the ASU Databases. Remember that most databases allow you to limit your searches to peer-reviewed content.

  4. At least one of the sources should be an official document of some kind that pertains to your community or career. It could be a government document from a city, county, state or Federal or other .gov site. It could be a financial document from a corporation, or it could be a corporate memo or official press release. It could also be an official document or statement released by a university, if this pertains to your topic.

    Consider using this ASU library guide on local sources for assistance:

  5. At least one of these sources should be a news source that pertains to your community or career. News sources are valuable for very current information.  Try to think as “local” as possible. For example, you are discussing an issue within your city, choose a source published by a news outlet within that city. If you are discussing a particular business or industry, consider finding a publication that primarily discusses that business or industry. If you are writing about a social or faith community, you could also cite a newsletter published from within that community.
  6. All of your sources should be relevant to your topic, recent and reliable. Before listing your sources, review the following tutorial which explains the criteria for good secondary source material: For further information, refer back to Chapter 19 of the textbook for more information about evaluating specific sources.

  7. On the same document where you listed your topic, list your sources as APA style citations, in alphabetical order.

Before completing your annotations, watch this tutorial on Evaluating Resources to determine if your sources are credible:

Now, for each of your sources, cite the source correctly according to APA style, and then write a paragraph length annotation below the citation that:

  • Summarizes the main points of the source.
  • Justifies the credibility of the source.  (Is the source suitable to use in an academic research project?  What makes the source reliable and scholarly? Is the information up-to-date?) 
  • Explains the relevance and applicability of the source for your project.  (Why is the source important to use?  How is it relevant to your analysis?  How will you use it in your project?)

Your annotations should be listed under each citation so that your instructor can easily match the citations with the annotations.

Part 2: Primary Research – Interview Plan

For this part of the assignment, you will need to complete a plan to conduct primary research – in this case, an interview with someone who is an expert on your topic, affected by your topic in some way, or someone who otherwise has an important perspective on the topic. This research should help you understand the local or occupation-specific aspects of your problem more clearly. You do not have to complete the interview before this assignment is due, but you should plan to incorporate it into a draft of your project.

Before planning your interview, you will want to read Chapter 19: Finding and Evaluating Information in our textbook. Because field research may involve gaining information from people outside of the class, being mindful of field research ethics is important. Here are some guidelines regarding field research for this class:

  • Always obtain informed consent from your participants. They should understand what the purpose of your research is and what it will be used for
  • Any participants in an interview used for this class should be 18 or over
  • Your interview participants do not have to be anonymous — but can be, if you feel this is best for their comfort or confidentiality
  • You should not try to obtain sensitive information or information that could be damaging to your participants. Always be mindful of the participant’s comfort and well-being
  • While you can obtain some excellent information by reaching out to public officials, always be as polite and clear as possible. In most cases, emails sent to public officials are part of the public record
  • Avoid using leading questions, which are questions that prompt the participant to respond in a specific way. Ex. “Why do you have such a bad relationship with other members of the City Council?”

Once you have read the guidelines for interview ethics, respond to the following prompts in paragraph form:

1. Identify your purpose

What information did you/do you hope to gain from this interview? How will this interview be relevant to discussing your problem? How might this information relate to your secondary research.

2. Choose an interview participant or participants

Who in your community or current/future career is familiar with your topic? Consider experts, educators, or knowledgeable professionals. Why would they be the best person(s) to interview or survey?

3. Determine the format of the interview

If you have the time or opportunity to conduct the interview or survey in person, consider doing so. However, a phone, video, or email interview would be appropriate. If you choose to approach someone you do not know about an interview or survey (such as a government official), you will likely want to email them first to see if they are willing to participate.

Write down the format of the interview or survey you chose. Why is it the best format for your purposes?

4. Develop questions

You will want to develop a few questions before conducting the interview or informal survey. Your questions should be oriented toward gaining information or perspective on your local or career-specific topic. Make sure to include all of your questions in the summary.

For an interview, you will want to avoid yes/no questions, unless you are conducting a survey. Directed or open-ended questions are often the best.

Part 3: Short Reflection

Once you have completed the annotations and your plan for primary research, take another look at your topic and proposed analysis and answer the following questions:  Do the sources you’ve found and annotated and the primary research you have planned help support a thorough analysis of your problem? Will you be able to support an analysis that addresses multiple aspects of the issue? If not, what other information would you need to find?

Appendix – Citing Field Research Interviews

In APA style, interviews do not need to be cited in the reference list. When citing a quote or paraphrase from an interview in your project, parenthetically cite the participant’s name

M. Davila responded that many of her students were very successful at learning APA style (personal communication, August 3, 2018).

If the participant is anonymous, you can substitute “anonymous” for a name.

If you would like to include the entire interview, do so in an appendix after your reference page, not in the body of the text.

WPA Outcomes and Habits of Mind

This assignment draws from the following WPA Outcomes bullet points and Habits of Mind as skills to be practiced.   

Possible WPA Outcomes:

Rhetorical Knowledge

  • Learn and use key rhetorical concepts through analyzing and composing a variety of texts
  • Gain experience reading and composing in several genres to understand how genre conventions shape and are shaped by readers’ and writers’ practices and purposes

Critical Thinking, Reading, and Composing

  • Read a diverse range of texts, attending especially to relationships between assertion and evidence, to patterns of organization, to the interplay between verbal and nonverbal elements, and to how these features function for different audiences and situations
  • Locate and evaluate (for credibility, sufficiency, accuracy, timeliness, bias and so on) primary and secondary research materials, including journal articles and essays, books, scholarly and professionally established and maintained databases or archives, and informal electronic networks and internet sources
  • Use strategies—such as interpretation, synthesis, response, critique, and design/redesign—to compose texts that integrate the writer’s ideas with those from appropriate sources


  • Use composing processes and tools as a means to discover and reconsider ideas

Knowledge of Conventions

  • Explore the concepts of intellectual property (such as fair use and copyright) that motivate documentation conventions
  • Practice applying citation conventions systematically in their own work

Possible Habits of Mind:

Curiosity, Openness, Engagement, Creativity, Persistence

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