Review the Research Primer to learn more about the ways that various academic disciplines conduct research. While important differences exist between academic disciplines regarding what constitutes a valid research methodology, broadly speaking, we can define two dominant forms of research: Textual Research and Empirical Research. As discussed below, textual research is based on dialogues and interpretations of texts whereas empirical research is based on formal observation. Interestingly, these two methods grow out of two distinct intellectual traditions: writing and authorship conducted by humanists and scientific study conducted by scientists and social scientists.
Research is defined by many academic disciplines, such as English or History, as primarily a textual process. In other words, some researchers—a group that is commonly called "scholars"—focus on texts (that is, on responding to them, critiquing them, or in rereading them with a particular theory in mind, such as Capitalism, Marxism, Psychoanalysis, Behaviorism, Deconstruction, Modernism, Postmodernism). Additionally,scholars can develop their work in response to everyday experiences, issues in popular culture, the media, and the Internet. Beyond debate and logic, scholars lack a way to prove one idea or approach is superior to any other.
College students are often surprised by how much they enjoy conducting field research. Field research provides writers with the satisfaction of knowing that they are doing original work. Clearly, clever minds can develop innovative ideas based on printed and Internet sources. Yet interviewing others, developing questionnaires, or making first-hand observations can feel more dynamic, more original. Many students find that they enjoy developing methods to answer research questions on topics of interest.
Once writers have conducted their textual or empirical research, they must incorporate their findings into their papers. Such findings serve as evidence, which supports the writer's claims. This section explores the means by which writers may integrate evidence into their essays.