Primary and Secondary Sources for Science
Primary vs Secondary Sources
What is a primary source?
Primary sources are simply sources that present new and original material. In the sciences new and original research is the common thread. Information gathered from a study or experiment can be shared in many ways. Dissertations, lab notes, interviews, papers presented at professional meetings and technical reports are a few examples. Articles published in peer reviewed journals, however, are going to be the primary sources that you will find the most helpful and easily accessed.
What is a secondary source?
Secondary sources are simply..everything else. Most comonly they are sources that refer and summarize primary sources but they also include sources that present information that is generally recognised as well established and no longer needs supporting evidence. Common examples are reviews, books, encyclopedias and handbooks. They are great for getting an overview of a topic or background information.
How will I know if an article is a primary source?
Read the abstract. Most will identify what type of article it is. They will use phrases like "this study will examine..." or may indicate what type of study they used. Types include Randomized Controlled Clinical Trials, Controlled Clinical Trial, Meta-analysis, Case Study and others. Or look for headings that describe METHODS, RESULTS and CONCLUSIONS/DISCUSSION. Many of our databass allow you to limit to peer reviewed which is handy because most articles published in them are primary sources.
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