A primary source in the sciences is usually a report on the results of an experiment by the person or group who performed it. They are usually published as scientific articles. Primary scientific articles contain high-level vocabulary and will usually present original data, often displayed in tables or charts.
The scientist reports the results of his or her own research. It is not a comment on someone else’s research, although the scientist may refer to someone else’s work in the body of the paper to illustrate the points he/she is trying to prove or disprove. Most scientific journals that are peer-reviewed are likely to contain primary literature. Peer-review means that a panel of experts will review all articles submitted for publication before they are accepted by the journal.
In a primary research article, you will typically see many or all of the following elements clearly presented:
The presence of these components indicate that the author is presenting new data and ideas.
Research articles ARE primary sources. They contain the original account and data collected from a specific experiment, study, etc. You can identify a research article by looking for some of the following:
Not to be confused with a “peer reviewed journal,” Review articles are an attempt by one or more writers to sum up the current state of the research on a particular topic. Ideally, the writer searches for everything relevant to the topic, and then sorts it all out into a coherent view of the “state of the art” as it now stands. Review Articles will teach you about::
Review Articles are virtual gold mines if you want to find out what the key articles are for a given topic. Unlike research articles, review articles are good places to get a basic idea about a topic. However, review articles are NOT primary sources.