3.1 Gathering data

3.1.2 Primary and secondary research

Figure 3.1.2a - What are the similarities and differences between doing a puzzle and writing your extended essay? 


Take a moment to study Figure 3.1.2a above. Have a quick discussion with a friend about the similarities and differences between doing a puzzle and researching for and writing an extended essay.

The importance of evidence

You have formulated a research question, and this question requires an answer. This answer will take the form of a claim or conclusion. But how will you arrive at this conclusion? You will arrive at a conclusion through research. But what is 'research'? 'Research is the acquisition of evidence that may support or refute a claim and help you answer a question. The more evidence on which your conclusion rests, the stronger your argument will be (and the more likely you are to score well on your EE).

Primary and secondary research

There are two types of research: primary research and secondary research. Primary research includes surveys that you conduct, experiments that you carry out and novels that you read.

Secondary research includes a study of someone else's literary criticism or someone else's interpretations of test results. 

For example: A reporter's eyewitness account of an event is primary research. A student reading an article about this event is secondary research. .

Figure 3.1.2b helps you understand some of the important types of primary and secondary research. 

Figure 3.1.2b - Understanding primary and secondary research



  • The quality of the sources you use can determine the success of your EE.
  • In a sense, the bibliography is a starting point for the EE, not an end point.
  • Research is circular, not linear. The discovery of a source may make you question your research question, or suggest new lines of inquiry.

Traits of a good primary source

  • authentic
  • interesting
  • original

Traits of a good secondary source

  • reliable
  • authoritative
  • informative