Monday, October 8, 2012

Technical Research

Technical research is usually used at work to help solve problems, make decisions, or answer questions (Smith, 2010). Technical research uses many of the same techniques that are used during high school or college but the focus of the research is not to just write a paper. The document written will have effects far greater than the grade book.

Secondary vs. Primary Research

All technical research begins with what you already know. After considering this information the researcher needs to consider the audience, purpose and scope of the paper. Then the author needs to gather and evaluate the new information and form their own conclusions. All research is either Secondary or Primary.

Secondary Research is indirect reports of information. A reporter in Texas writing about an earthquake in California would be using secondary research. Secondary research also gives a starting point for new research. "Larmar Reinsch argues that poor preparation promotes reinventing the wheel rather than building on prior knowledge gained through business and technical communication research." (Kim, 2000) Some places to start looking for secondary research are :
  • work archives
  • work correspondence and emails
  • library catalogs
  • periodicals
  • general reference materials
Primary Research usually starts with secondary research. The information gathered in the beginning of a project can lead to unanswered questions and to find those answers, primary research is required. Some examples of primary research are :
  • Surveys
  • Interviews
  • Observations
  • Experimentation
After gathering all the information, an author can have a difficult time deciding what research to use and what research is just some one's ramblings. There are several factors to consider when evaluating these sources.
  • Who wrote the paper?
  • What was the author's objective?
  • Was the author knowledgeable?
  • Did the author accurately use the research provided?
  • Was the research or paper relevant?
  • When was the paper written?
If any of the answers cause alarm or suspicion then the paper or site is probably not a reliable source. Another quick way to evaluate a website is the last three letters of the web address. If the last three letters are com the site is a commercial website and they are biased to the information they provide. These sites are usually trying to sell a product or idea to their audience and can omit or twist their research to better accomplish this task. If the site ends with gov, mil, org, or edu, then the research should be evaluated further and might be an appropriate research site.

Documentation and Plagiarism

After gathering all the information needed, the author then needs to write out their conclusions and give credit to other researchers who influenced their work. "Documentation is a system of giving credit to another person (writer or speaker) for his or her work. It is using a citation system to not whose ideas or words the writer is using and where he or she found them. Responsible writers document ideas and materials they borrow or use."(Smith, 2010) When using a quote, paraphrase, or summery, internal citations direct the reader to the appropriate bibliography. The citations allow others to follow your road map to continue and evaluate your research. This also helps an author avoid plagiarism.

Plagiarism in school can result in a failing grade or suspension from the University. Plagiarism in work can have far worse consequences. Not citing references at work can result in loss of job, lawsuits, and a ruined reputation. All of this can be avoided by properly citing others work within a paper and including a bibliography at the end. It is as simple as that.

Technical research has become part of most jobs in the American workforce. Everyone is required to help develop work techniques or to pass on information to coworkers and customers. Proper research could help someone get a promotion and sloppy research can lead to the exact opposite.


Kim, S.C. (2000). Research methods course work for students specializing in business and technical communication. Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 14(2), 223-241. Retrieved from

Smith-Worthington, S., & Jefferson, S. (2011). Technical writing for success (3rd ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting. I wonder what the point of this exercise is? Sometimes I really miss college, it made me think. I won't miss the student loans when they're paid off though!