This distinction is not particularly useful in capturing the scope of research in Sustainability.
Research and other literature already published should be synthesized and critically evaluated in the Background section of your proposal and thesis.
In many cases, data from publications or databases publicly available on the internet provide material for original analysis in your thesis research.
- Sources of these data - and their use in your research - should be explained and referenced in the Methods section of your thesis
- Note: This does not fit the classic definition of empirical research, as it does not use your own original data, also known as “primary data”
However, it does constitute original research if you are combining and modeling the data in new ways to answer different questions