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Primary Sources: Scientific Primary Sources

What are they and how do you find them?

Primary Sources in the Sciences

  • Primary sources in the sciences are sources that report original research studies, findings, and discoveries.  Primary sources in the sciences may also be called primary research, primary articles, or research studies.
  • Primary research will contain the data, observations, and other results from experiments and studies.  
  • Primary research articles are published in scholarly journals, so when asked to find a primary source in one of your science classes you can go to one of the library's databases and search for scholarly articles.
  • To determine if an article is primary research you will have to start reading it.  Usually you can determine what kind of article it is by reading the title and the abstract.  You can also read the methods section of the article to determine what kind of research was done.   If the article discusses an original research study, where data is collected and analyzed, it is primary research.
  • If you see the words "meta-analysis," "systematic review," or "literature review" the article is NOT primary research.  These kinds of articles discuss the research of others.  

Finding Sources

The research guides below will recommend databases you can use to locate scientific primary research articles.