Original research (often called "primary research") can be contrasted with Secondary research. All scholarly research starts with assessment of existing knowledge. Scholarly secondary research can often lead to progress towards the creation of new knowledge, but in some cases it just summarizes and encapsulates existing ideas from published sources. Wikipedia allows forms of secondary research that do not produce new knowledge. For example, Wikipedia editors often study, evaluate and summarize the existing published literature in a topic area in order to evaluate which points of view are more common and which are rarely held by published authors. The goal is often to have a Wikipedia article emphasize the most important points of view for a topic. In contrast, Wikipedia rejects original research results that involve novel results not previously published.
Original research in general and within Wikimedia Foundation projects
Original research plays important roles in education. Education is not only about existing knowledge. One of the most important functions of educational institutions is passing from generation to generation the culture of research and methods for scholarly pursuit of new knowledge. One of the best ways for students to learn is to become involved in conducting research projects. Given its education-oriented mission, it is natural for Wikiversity to concern itself with all types of research.
The term "Original research" has a special meaning within Wikimedia Foundation projects. Within Wikimedia Foundation projects "Original research" is used to refer to material placed in articles by wiki editors that has not been previously published by a reliable source. It includes unpublished material, for example, arguments, concepts, data, ideas, statements, or theories, or any new analysis or synthesis of published material that appears to advance a position — or, in the words of Wikipedia's co-founder Jimbo Wales, that would amount to a "novel narrative or historical interpretation" (source).
- the past position of Wikimedia Foundation projects with respect to Original research (No Original Research, see also Wikibooks)
- the fundamental role of research in education, the Wikiversity community must develop a set of policies and guidelines for how to incorporate original research activities within a Wikimedia Foundation project.
The approved Wikiversity project proposal included this paragraph about the scope of Wikiversity research:
- "Wikiversity could act as a repository of research carried out by the Wikimedia Research Network or other people involved in wiki-based research, and could also host the proceedings of Wikimania. Whether or not Wikiversity will ever host original research in addition to secondary research is the subject of debate (see the project proposal talk page) though original research could take place based on materials in Wikiversity (eg. materials on sociology prompt a survey research project). Guidelines for what would be appropriate research will be developed during the beta phase of the project through a community consensus process, and reviewed (by the Special projects committee) after six months. There will not necessarily be 'approval' of research added to Wikiversity - though some sort of review process needs to be established which will deal with potential problems."
The scope of Wikiversity research projects
Both secondary research projects (literature reviews that produce new knowledge and go beyond a "No original research" policy) and other original research projects using research methods in addition to literature review can both generate new and previously unpublished knowledge, arguments, concepts, data, ideas, statements, or theories. If Wikiversity is going to allow such research projects, Wikiversity needs to invent and implement a new system "which will deal with potential problems" arising from original research.
Formal peer review
Wikimedia Foundation projects traditionally rely on the citation of supporting verifiable and reliable sources as the key criteria for inclusion of information in project webpages. This traditional method of deciding on suitability of content is not applicable to original research. Formal peer review is a process of subjecting new scholarly work or ideas to the scrutiny of others who are experts in the field. Wikiversity may be able rely on a formal peer review system that can function to assure that original research within Wikiversity meets high standards of scholarship. See:
- Research - Source documents concerning research within Wikiversity.
- Secondary research - research into a topic using the method of literature review.
- Scope of research - should Wikiversity allow all types of research, including original research?
- Research guidelines - what rules are needed to assure that only high quality, scholarly research activities take place?