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Why is determining what you need BEFORE you search important?
There's a lot of information out there, but what is relevant to you depends on your research needs. Deciding what you're looking for beforehand can help you focus, and keep you from wasting your time. To know what you need, first you have to develop a working knowledge of your topic. Then you'll narrow your topic into a specific question that you're trying to answer in your research. Finally, you'll have to decide how different types of sources can (or cannot) provide information that you need to answer that question.
Books vs. Journal Articles
What do books have that journal articles generally do not?
At the beginning of the research process, when you're not very knowledgeable about your topic or the issues surrounding it, books will give you background information, or context.
They introduce vocabulary related to your topic--words that will help you search for more specific resources on your topic later.
They cover more of the history of your topic, because books are made to last. The same book will continue to inform researchers through time.
What do journal articles have that books generally do not?
When you have a basic understanding of your topic, journal articles will give you information on more specific issues within your topic, often relative to a certain quantitative or qualitative study.
They contain a lot of statistics--data that you might use to support or negate a claim about your topic.
They cover current issues from the time that they are published, because they are produced quickly. A journal article will keep a researcher up to date on the newest information.
Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research
A very basic distinction:
Qualitative research focuses more on detailed analysis of one or a few elements, drawing conclusions based on subjective observation. Examples of this would be a case study, or an in-depth survey with open-ended questions. One benefit of this type of research is how detailed it is, while one of its weaknesses is that the study group is small.
Quantitative research focuses more on a large pool of data, drawing conclusions from objective statistics. Examples of this would be a study involving hundreds or thousands of people, or a survey with multiple-choice questions. One benefit of this type of research is that it collects a lot of information, while one of its weaknesses is that that information is less personal or specific.
Mixed-methods research attempts to combine the strengths, and combat the weaknesses, of these two types by including a bit of each.
For more information on qualitative, quantitative, or mixed-methods research, see the Recommended Reading tab of this LibGuide, then look for the sections ????????