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The University of Southampton
The Learn With US Transition Programme

Getting started with research - finding relevant resources and considering research methods

A fundamental part of any research project is locating and critically analysing work that has come before. Research evolves over time, with many different perspectives, and in order to address a research question, it is necessary to review relevant existing knowledge.


It is important when embarking on research that you locate, evaluate and analyse literature related to your chosen topic and wider research area so that you:

  1. build your own knowledge and expertise about the topic,
  2. identify gaps in the literature that make way for your research and,
  3. are able to 'tell the story' of the topic to the reader of your work

To help get you started with gathering literature, our academic guide to research Making the Case covers how to locate literature using effective search terms.

It will be expected that you will engage with a diverse array of resources, which could include: 

Academic texts can sometimes be difficult to obtain as many journals require a subscription to access content. However, there are a number of websites that search for open-access (free to view/download) research. The following links will enable you to locate freely available academic research:

Directory of Open Access Journals
OER Commons (open textbooks) 
Open Textbook Library
Get the Research

Research Methods

Choosing a suitable research method to investigate your topic is important. Broadly speaking, research can be split into primary and secondary. Primary research means generating original data in relation to the question being answered, whilst secondary research is where the researcher collates and synthesises existing data to answer the question. 


Research methods can be further split into quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative research is when data is collected and analysed using statistical or other mathematical methods to address a hypothesis. Qualitative research tends to be more exploratory, and is used to understand the 'how' and 'why' of phenomena by investigating people's experiences.

Examples of quantitative research methods include:

Examples of qualitative research methods include:

It may seem tempting to replicate a research method that you have seen used in another piece of research, but this may not always be suitable. There are a number of things you will need to consider before settling on a particular method. You should try asking yourself the following questions before exploring options for research methods:

Research ethics are 'moral principles' which researchers follow when conducting their work. Especially important when working with human participants, there are a number of issues that need to be considered to ensure that any risk/harm posed by your research topic is adequately mitigated, such as:

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