For most of your MBA papers, you will be using secondary
sources (sources that did not originate the data they are reporting but
secured them elsewhere) and secondary data (information which may be
considered a primary source but was gathered for a purpose other than your
paper) rather than primary data (information you collect through surveys,
observations, or other primary research techniques specifically for your
paper). In QMS 6351, you will receive a brief introduction to
research methods related to primary data. This module will
familiarize you with a method for conducting secondary research.
- Start by learning about your topic in general. Suppose
you need to research a topic that has been introduced briefly in one of
your classes, or one that your class has not yet discussed that you will
be responsible for introducing to them. Begin with a set of
journalistic questions about the topic, such as:
One you have a basic list of questions, choose your first source.
This source may be a textbook, encyclopedia entry, or some other general
reference, and probably will not even appear on your list of references
when you conclude your research. Use the source to familiarize
yourself with the topic, and generate a list of keywords, phrases, and
names that you can use to conduct a more thorough review of literature
related to the topic.
- What is supply chain management?
- Who is relevant to the discussion of supply chain
management? What professionals or academicians are considered to be
authorities in this area?
- When did supply chain management become a hot topic?
- Where is supply chain management relevant or critical?
- Why is supply chain management important?
- How is supply chain management accomplished? Who or what
- Zero in on the purpose of your research. Decide whether
you need to complete research that surveys the entire topic, or addresses
in-depth one particular element or issue related to the topic. Based
on your conclusion, write a working thesis
statement. You may also use this step to refine the list of
keywords you generated in step one.
- Prepare a working reference list. Compile a list of all
the available books, articles, reference materials, and electronic
resources which appear relevant to your research topic. It is better
to have too many than too few, since you will probably need to pare down
your first list as your research refines. The VC/UHV Library
provides a listing of the most popular search
engines and subject directories, as well as database
listings by subject, that you can use in developing your reference
- Pull together your resources. Begin by using Internet
search engines or electronic databases to see how many of your sources you
will be able to obtain quickly and easily electronically. For those
which are not available online, consult a librarian about obtaining a
copy. In case the book must be requested through interlibrary loan,
always make these requests as early as possible.
- Take notes. As you review each of your sources, record a
complete citation (citation and reference formats are addressed in the
module on Writing a Research Paper) and write down the information that
you think you will use. Decide on a system for keeping notes.
Some students prefer to write a single note on an index card so that the
cards can be shuffled and reordered as the paper is outlined, while others
type all of their notes into a single document to be cut and paste under
appropriate outline headings. Also, decide whether you will record
your notes as direct quotations, paraphrases, summaries, or a combination,
and make sure that you will be able to tell them apart later.
Knowing that you've been consistent about your notes will make you less
likely to plagiarize from any of your sources inadvertently.
- Evaluate your sources. Because so much of our research
is conducted online now, verifying the credibility of your sources has
become both more challenging and more critical than ever. Among the
issues you should consider are
Throughout the resource evaluation stage, remember that your sources
were written by other people who may be prone to the same errors that you
are trying to avoid--the authors may have misattributed portions of their
research, plagiarized (intentionally or unintentionally), or made mistakes
about which of their sources should be included or excluded. Do not
take it for granted that the author of the resource you are using is
fundamentally a better researcher than you are--find out.
- Purpose and audience - In many cases, your resources were not
primarily intended to assist students with scholarly research.
Therefore, you must consider who the resource was written for and
why. Was it intended to advertise or promote something? In
that case, it is likely that the source is not objective. Does it
assume that you are already an expert in the field? In that case,
you may need to be more familiar with your topic before you can adequately
interpret the information this source is providing.
- Authority - You need to have some confidence that the person
or organization who provided your source actually knows what they are
talking about. Do some checking on the author's credentials, any
bias he or she may have on the subject, and, if the author purports to be
a scholar, whether he or she has published anything on the topic in a
refereed journal. If your source is an organization, check for basic
credibility hallmarks; they should have a legitimate mailing address, and
their mission or vision statement should reassure you of their commitment
to providing accurate information. It is also helpful if they are
affiliated with another organization which you already trust.
- Currency - Assuming that you are researching a "hot
topic" in business, your sources should be as current as possible,
with the exception of recognized seminal works on your subject. The
majority of your print sources should be no more than five years
old. If you are using web page references, the web pages should list
dates of creation and update or modification, and updates should be recent
enough to persuade you that the pages are still active. (Note:
Because web pages can be modified so easily and so often, you should print
a copy of any web pages which you are using in your research, and note the
date that you printed them on your reference list.)
- Context - Your resources should be evaluated against each
other as well as on their own individual merits to ensure that you are
building your research on the best information available. Review the
list of reference for each of your resources and decide whether all of
them appear to be thorough and/or scholarly. If one or two are
obviously weaker than the others, you may not want to include them unless
they provide an important and credible detail that other sources
omit. Also consider eliminating a source if its content is already
covered more thoroughly by other resources at your disposal, or if it
appears to be summarizing another work--you would be better off looking
for the original source than using a second-hand summary of it.
Finally, decide whether each of your sources is truly appropriate for
inclusion in an academic paper.
- Analyze your data. Decide how to organize your
information around your thesis sentence. When your notes are in
order, you are ready to begin writing a research paper.
However, don't be surprised if you find that you need to obtain additional
research information before your paper is complete--research and writing
are in many ways parallel activities.