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ISCI 202 (Lewis)

Primary and Secondary Sources

Primary Sources

Primary sources = original research

  • Written by the researcher(s) who performed the research study
  • Should include sections detailing how the research was performed, such as methodology, results, and discussion/conclusions

In primary sources:

  • The abstracts often talk about performing a study or conducting an investigation
  • The articles often contain a methods section or describe how the original research was performed
  • The focus is often narrower, investigating specific research questions
  • While most research articles contain a brief literature review in their introduction, it is not the primary purpose of the paper
Secondary Sources

Secondary sources = summary, review, or comparison

  • Authors did not conduct the research studies which are mentioned or cited in the article
  • Purpose is to summarize, review, or compare the published research on a specific topic

In secondary sources:

  • The abstracts often talk about summarizing existing evidence
  • The articles often do not include a methods section
  • The focus is often on summarizing and analyzing a broad set of questions related to a research area

Source Characteristics and Evaluating Sources