Library research involves locating, analyzing, and synthesizing existing (secondary) research and/or primary source material into an original paper. Library research is an integral part of all research, though it can also stand-alone literature review, meta-analysis, or systematic review.
Research methods, refers to original (primary) empirical quantitative or qualitative data collection through a descriptive (e.g, survey, case study), experimental, semi-experimental (e.g., field or quasi-experimental design), or study (e.g., proof of concept, pilot study) method.
This guide will discuss the process of library research.
There are different types of papers requiring research: argumentative and analytical. Not all research papers argue for a position, controversial or otherwise. The purpose may be to analyze an issue and convey your evaluation to the reader. Generally though, secondary research involves a debatable topic, applying meaning, and arguing* for a claim or for the validity of your analysis.
Locating information and summarizing are both part of the larger process, but a research paper doesn't just relay existing information, it attempts to contribute something new. Your paper should make a claim for what the information means, why it is significant, and why it has consequences that matter for the reader. This is your thesis and central argument.*
Imagine your paper as part of an ongoing conversation. The goal is to situate your unique perspective within the larger body of scholarship (the conversation) on a topic. You will need to have a grasp of the conversation thus far in order to contribute meaningfully to it.
*Argument in this sense does not mean argumentative. It is your claim and explanation of why your thesis has merit. However, that must be logically argued for with credible, verifiable evidence as substantiation. It's not about coercing readers into your way of thinking, but persuading them to reconsider based on the eloquence of your exposition and the quality of your evidence.