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If you’ve seen this term recently, you may be wondering what on earth it means and why you should care. The answer to both is pretty simple.

What is research on research?

I’ve started seeing this term recently, and it caught me by surprise the first time I saw it. Basically, research on research means someone (or some people) has taken the time to round up research conducted on a particular topic to determine what are the common themes, and to determine if there is a common answer that has been discovered on the topic.

For example, my own research on research found that whether your list a scale order matters based on the number of responses you expect in your study, whether you list your answers vertically or horizontally, and the market where you’ll be fielding your study.

Research on research has been done by academics, with results published in peer-reviewed journals (academic journals where a group of peers has reviewed the report for accuracy and validity), and it has been done on a much smaller scale by others. Any time you decide to start reading multiple journal articles to find answers to a question, you’re technically doing research on research.

Why should I care about research on research?

There are a few reasons to care about research on research. First, different people doing the same research on research might come to different conclusions. Theoretically, that should not happen, but it does. When you’re reading something about research on research, I’d recommend checking the primary sources of data (were they from credible sources to begin with or are they just blog posts being summarized?). I’d also recommend checking who is doing the research on research, and who is funding their work (the same goes for any kind of research study).

Research on research can also turn up some surprising results. With so many studies being conducted on various topics, it can be surprising to find that different studies on the same topic have produced drastically different results. In that case, it’s important to go back to primary sources and determine things like how sample was selected, how were studies conducted, and what was asked in the study. However, it can also reveal gaps in research. I recently tried to do research on a particular questionnaire topic to determine best questions for a subject area that has been around for awhile, only to find that nobody has done research in that particular area yet.

How can I do my own research on research?

When investigating any topic, research on research can be fascinating. One of my sources is Google Scholar, but be aware that you still need to check your primary sources, since Google Scholar will link to all journals, including non-peer-reviewed journals. Academic Journals is a list of only peer-reviewed journals; like Google Scholar, you can often find links to the full article text as opposed to only linking to the abstract. Just start searching for your topic and see what you find! This can be especially helpful when looking for questions that have been vetted by researchers for the best wording, for questionnaire design, and for secondary research sources to support your primary research being done using questionnaires. And it’s not just for academic studies; this is a great resource for any DIY market researcher who wants to learn more about best practices in market research. (One side note: peer-reviewed journals by nature take a long time to publish studies, so you might not find a lot in the way of the most current trends such as how to best use smart watches for conducting market research.)