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Primary vs. Secondary Sources for Scientific Research

This guide will define primary and secondary sources which can be used for scientific research.

Analyzing Sources

In a primary research article, you will typically see many or all of the following elements clearly presented:

  • An abstract/summary of the research about to be presented
  • Author’s affiliation
  • Introduction with thesis statement
  • review of other literature pertaining to the experiment
  • Methods used to conduct the experiment
  • Materials and equipment used in the experiment
  • Results of the experiment (data) - may include tables, charts, graphs, figures, photographs
  • Discussion of the results
  • Conclusion
  • References/Bibliography

The presence of these components indicate that the author is presenting new data and ideas.

Steps for Analyzing Sources 

1. The report contains original research

2. Author's affiliations are included

3. Methods are described in the article so another researcher could carry out the exact same study, using the same methods.

4. Results are given as statistics, graphs, or tables.

5. References Included at the end of the research.

6. Peer Reviewed: The information is  published in peer reviewed journals.

Reading Primary Literature in Biology