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Primary Sources: Primary Sources in the Sciences

This guide aims to help you identify common types of primary sources in the University Libraries’ collections and those that are freely available on the Internet. It doesn't cover finding source material in other museums, libraries or other collections

Finding Primary Science Sources

Every science database includes a mix of primary and secondary resources.  The databases listed below are good places to start looking for primary sources, but remember to examine each potential resource to ensure it was written by the original experimenters and includes the areas listed to the right.

What is a primary source in the sciences?

The idea of primary sources in the sciences are a little bit different than primary sources in the humanities or social sciences.  In the sciences, the focus is on the research.  Primary sources are ones written by the scientists who performed the experiments - these articles include original research data.  Secondary sources are ones that summarize or compare lots of research in a particular area.

So how can you tell if a science article is a primary source?  Primary research articles will include sections about:

  • methodology -  explaining how the experiment was conducted
  • results - detailing what happened and providing raw data sets (often as tables or graphs)
  • conclusions - connecting the results with theories and other research
  • references - to previous research or theories that influenced the research

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