Characteristics of Primary Literature
Researchers communicate their research results with the scientific community by publishing articles in Academic Journals. These published articles are known as the Primary Literature. Here are a few characteristics to help you identify primary literature articles.
- Contains original research. This is the most important characteristic. All primary literature articles contain research that adds something new to the overall scientific literature in a subject.
- Authors are scientists. The authors of primary literature will most likely be scientists doing research in their specific field. They will almost always have advanced degrees.
- Articles will most likely have these distinct sections:
- Abstract: Brief summary of the article and its contents
- Introduction: Provides background and possibly discusses earlier research
- Methods and/or Materials: Lays out the methods and the materials used to execute the experiment
- Results: Reports the results of the experiment. Often includes charts and/or tables.
- Discussion: Discusses the results of the experiments.
- Literature Cited or Bibliography: A listing of the sources cited in the article.
Characteristics of Secondary Literature
Secondary litearature summarizes or reviews information on a broader topic. It is often used to provide an overview of particular scientific field of study. Examples of secondary literature include:
- Text books
- Review articles
WARNING: Secondary Literature often appears in Journals that also contain Primary Literature. If an article includes the word "review" in the title or is labled as a "review." It is most likely secondary literature.
Finding Primary Literature
Start your search for Primary Literature in any of the databases found under the "Find Articles" section of this guide. Remember that not all of the articles in these databases are Primary Literature.
You will still need to look at the formatting and the type of information provided in the article. Use the Primary vs. Secondary checklist above to help you identify primary literature articles.