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BIOLOGY 152: Introductory Biology: IP-Finding Research Articles and Databases (Spring 2024) : Evaluating and Using Articles/Primary & Secondary (Review) articles in the Sciences

Is My Article Scholarly?

Is it a Primary or Secondary Article?

Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources


A primary source in the sciences is a report of research results written by the scientist(s) who conducted the research.

  • Contains original research results or “raw data”
  • Written by the scientist(s) who conducted the research
  • Includes enough detail for other scientists to evaluate and reproduce results

Examples: Research articles, Conference papers, Theses, Technical reports, Patents, Data sets, Lab notebooks


A secondary source in the sciences synthesizes, summarizes, interprets or analyzes one or more primary sources often in an attempt to summarize the current state of knowledge on a topic.

  • Contains no original data found or produced by the author
  • Written by a scientist or journalist who read research reports
  • Draw conclusions based on research done by others

Examples: Analyses, Meta-analyses, Commentaries, Reviews, Summaries, News Reports


A tertiary source in the sciences collects and condenses information from primary and secondary sources.

  • Introduce general readers to what is currently known about a topic
  • Distill information from experiments or research (e.g. chemical properties)
  • Collect or list primary and secondary sources from more information

Examples: Textbooks, Encyclopedias, Bibliographies, Almanacs, Chronologies, Dictionaries, Manuals