SOME IMPORTANT DISTINCTIONS: Empirical research pertains to studies in which a research question (or questions) or hypothesis (or hypotheses) have been examined or tested by systematic data (evidence) collection, analysis, and interpretation. Empirical researchers may systematically collect such data (evidence) through observation, measurement, or experimentation – Empirical research does NOT consist of “opinion pieces” or commentaries written about a particular topic. At a minimum, empirical research documents/articles (studies) will contain the following sections: “Methods”/“Data Collection”/ “Data Analysis” in which the sample (persons or groups participating in the research) and the method(s)/data collection instruments/procedures used to study the sample are described along with the data analysis techniques employed; “Results”; and “Discussion”/ “Interpretation”/“Implications.” A primary source is a document (e.g., a journal article) that describes original research conducted by the author(s) of the document. In other words: “A primary source is a report of an original research study. A primary source usually provides enough details to replicate the research study. Primary sources are written by the researcher(s) or evaluator(s) who conducted the study. The main formats of primary sources are journal articles, technical reports from research institutions or education organizations, and reports on presentations at conferences” (http://www.ecs.org/html/educationissues/research/primer/researchsays.asp, para. 13). By comparison, a secondary source is a document composed by a person (or persons) who is (are) reporting on/describing research conducted by another individual (or individuals). Thus, their report/description is secondhand (these types of documents would include review papers, theoretical articles, and meta-analyses). In other words: “A secondary source is a description and summary of one or more prior research studies. Secondary sources usually do not include enough details to replicate the original studies being described. Examples of secondary sources are literature reviews and books….Use primary sources when it is important to know the details of a study and its results. Use secondary sources to obtain an overview of the research on a particular topic and reference information for original research studies” (http://www.ecs.org/html/educationissues/research/primer/researchsays.asp, para. 14, 16).
Finally, distinct from secondary sources, some published documents may be reports of secondary data analysis. Secondary data analysis is a form of research in which the data collected by one researcher (or government or non-government entity) are analyzed for the first time (or reanalyzed in an original way) by another researcher, perhaps to answer new research questions or test new research hypotheses. Primary data are data that a researcher has collected himself/herself, and secondary data are data the researcher has gathered from primary sources to create new research. Thus, you may include relevant documents that utilized secondary data analysis in your brief RSRR paper.