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BIOL 3100 - Evolution, Ecology, and the Nature of Science - Demastes & Spradling

What is primary literature?

What is primary literature in the sciences?
Most often, primary literature in the sciences is defined as scholarly, peer-reviewed research articles in which the authors conducted research/collected and analyzed data in some way. This is very different from how some other fields, such as history, define primary sources.

How do I know something is primary literature?
Some clues to look for: The article is published in a scholarly journal.  The authors collected data, often in the field or lab. Check the abstract and methodology sections to determine.

If the authors only used other articles for their research, this is a review article NOT primary literature.

What if the authors used data someone else collected?
Check with your professor to see if research using secondary data is acceptable for your assignment.

Need help determining? 
Just ask!

PRIMARY LITERATURE: Suggested Databases

Web of Science Tips

To exclude Review Articles (secondary research) from your search results, use the checkbox next to Review Article in the left sidebar after you get search results, and select Exclude as shown:

Web of Science exclude review articles


To include only Review Articles, use the same checkbox but choose Refine as shown:

Web of Science include only review articles

Interlibrary Loan

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