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Section 1 Research

Section 2 Referencing 


Description:  This unit is designed to enable you to research appropriate information for a range of objectives – both technical and non-technical and accurately apply recognized methods of referencing for a range of sources.

Author:  Gates MacBain Associates

Section 1  Research

Aims and Objectives

At the end of this section you should be able to:
  • Explain the types of research that are carried out

The word research derives from the French recherche, which means 'to investigate thoroughly'. 

Research is a systematic process of inquiry aimed at discovering, interpreting and establishing facts. Its’ purpose is to investigation in order to produce a greater knowledge and understanding of events, behaviours, theories, and laws whereby make practical applications possible.  

In addition to this unit you should also read the unit ‘Carrying out Investigative Work and Collecting Evidence’ which will provide additional information to ensure that you understand the topic.  

Research Methods

The goal of the research process is to produce new knowledge, which takes three main forms:
  • Exploratory research, which structures and identifies new problems
  • Constructive research, which develops solutions to a problem
  • Empirical research, which tests the feasibility of a solution using empirical evidence

Research can also fall into two distinct types:
  • Primary research
  • Secondary research

Primary Research

Is any type of research that you go out and collect yourself. Examples include surveys, interviews, observations, and ethnographic research.  

A good researcher knows how to use both primary and secondary sources in their writing and to integrate them in a cohesive fashion.  

Types of Primary Research
  • Interviews: one-on-one or small group question and answer sessions.  Provide a lot of information from a small number of people and are useful when you want to get an expert or knowledgeable opinion on a subject.
  • Surveys: a form of questioning that is more rigid than interviews and that involve larger groups of people. Provide a limited amount of information from a large group of people and are useful when you want to learn what a larger population thinks.
  • Questionnaire: These are written forms which are either sent to or given to people to complete. They are useful in obtaining information on opinions etc. A guide to producing questionnaires can be found at the website Questionnaires listed below.
  • Observations: involve taking organized notes about occurrences in the world. Provide insight about specific people, events, or locales. Useful to learn more about an event without the biased viewpoint of an interview.
  • Analysis: involves collecting data and organizing it in some fashion based on criteria you develop. Useful to find some trend or pattern.

An introduction to research methods can be found by visiting the Basic Research Methods website below. You should also consult the other constructionsite unit ‘Preparation of Written and Oral Report’ listed below. 

Secondary Research

Information and/or data that someone else has collected, this is available from:
  • Books
  • Magazines
  • newspapers
  • electronic sources (CD-ROM encyclopaedias, software packages, or online services, such as the Internet).
When you use a secondary source you should note, for future reference, where you got the information.  

Limitations of Secondary Research
  • Secondary data can be general and vague and may not really help with decision making.
  • The information and data may not be accurate. The source of the data must always be checked.
  • The data maybe old and out of date.
  • The sample used to generate the secondary data maybe small.
  • The company publishing the data may be biased or not be reputable.



  • Bailey, V, (1995) Essential Research Skills; London: Collins Educational (Chapter 11)  

Constructionsite Units

  • Carrying out Investigative Work and Collecting Evidence
  • Preparation of Written and Oral Report

Self-Assessment Task

  • Explain the types of research that can be carried out and discuss their limitations.

Section 2  Referencing

Aims and Objectives

At the end of this section you should be able to:
  • Reference sources of information from a variety of sources

A reference or citation is a description of a document from which you have taken information. You should acknowledge sources consulted for the production of written work otherwise you are guilty of plagiarism which is using someone else’s work and passing it off as your own. Though referencing also allows a reader to locate the sources you have used.    

Ways of Referencing 

The most common method of citation and referencing is the Harvard System (also called the Author - Date System). It specifies how the details are presented and it what order; the example below shows this though full detail should be obtained by visiting ‘The Harvard System’ websites below.   

GATEPAIN, RJ, (1995) Successful Property Development; Lincoln: RIA Publishing   
You will need the above information for a bibliography or to give credit for any quotes or illustrations you use. The list below provides guidance on how to reference different sources though a more complete guide can be found on the website ‘Sources other than Books’ shown below.  
  • Book
  • Author, date of publication, title of book, place of publication, publisher, and pages read or quoted.
  • Magazine or periodical
  • Author, title of article, title of magazine, volume and issue number and date of publication, and page numbers of article.
  • Newspaper
  • Author, title of article, name of newspaper, date of publication, and section and page numbers.
  • Encyclopaedia
  • Name of encyclopaedia, volume number, title of article, place of publication, publisher, year of publication, and page numbers of article.
  • CD-ROM encyclopaedia or software package
  • Name of program, version or release number, name of supplier, and place where supplier is located.
  • Document from on-line service
  • Author (if known), title of document, name of organization that posted document, place where organization is located, date given on document, and on-line address or mailing address where document is available.


Constructionsite Units

  • Preparation of Written and Oral Report

Self-Assessment Task

  • Using examples, explain the way that information is referenced from a book, a magazine and a website.

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