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In the sciences, the primary literature:
- presents or comments upon the immediate results of research activities
- often includes analyses of data collected in the field or the laboratory
- is very current and highly specialized.
Examples of primary literature in the sciences include:
The secondary literature:
- summarizes and synthesizes the primary literature
- is both broader and less current than the primary literature
- is useful for getting an overview of a research area
- is useful for finding citations to more information on a topic.
Examples of secondary literature in the sciences include:
- literature reviews (or review articles) - More about literature reviews
- monographs (books dealing with a specific area of research in the sciences)
The tertiary literature:
- deals with broad, discipline-level topics in the sciences (like biochemistry or evolution)
- is a useful starting point for background information on a research topic
- reports very well-established facts in the scientific literature.
Examples of tertiary literature in the sciences include: