Skip to Main Content

Bio 1B Research Skills Guide: Frequently Asked Questions: Question 3

Frequently asked questions about the Bio 1B Research Skills Tutorials.

Question 3


Question 3a

How can I tell whether an article is a primary research article or a literature review?

A scientific journal article is primary if it is a first-hand account of a specific study--that is, the experiments described were carried out by the researchers who wrote the article.

​To identify whether an article in a peer-reviewed journal is a primary research article, look for some internal clues:

  • Does the abstract (summary) indicate that an experimental study or studies were performed? Does it mention "this study" or include phrases such as "measured," "compared," "determined," "found," etc.?
  • Does the article include a section describing the experimental methods that were followed?
  • Does the article include a section describing the experimental results, usually with data tables and figures​?

​These are all indications that an article is a primary research article.


The article I was asked to look at for this question cites many other articles. Does that make it a literature review?

Many primary research articles include short section that reviews pertinent scientific literature as background for the paper. And the ethics of scientific communication require that the relevant work of other researchers should be appropriately cited throughout the article.

A literature review or review article is entirely devoted to a summary of primary articles, and is not a first-hand report of research performed by the authors.


Question 3b

The question asks me to look for information on the journal homepage, but I can't find it.

If you have trouble finding the journal homepage, first identify the name of the journal (see the BIOSIS Previews record for this article if it's unclear). On the full text page, is there a banner, a thumbnail image, an icon or a link related to the journal name? If so, try clicking on it. If the link takes you to a specific issue, look for a "Home" link. If you're still having trouble, please send a message to


What is the difference between peer review and a literature review?

Please see the Bio 1B Library Help Guide:

What is a DOI?


What is a DOI?

DOI stands for Digital Object Identifier. It is a unique string of numbers, or numbers and letters, permanently applied to a specific online item. A DOI can be assigned to a scientific article; DOIs can also be assigned to web pages, blog posts, videos, audio files, images, or online information about physical objects.

Unlike a typical Web address, or URL, a DOI never changes. A DOI is a persistent identifier that should remain associated with its particular object even if the Web address for that object changes. There is a registry of DOIs managed by the International DOI Foundation that maintains the association between a DOI and the Web address for an object. When the Web address changes the registry is updated so that the DOI points to the new Web address.

DOIs can be written in several different formats:

Have Questions?

Email and we'll get back to you within 24 hours, excluding weekends!

For more help

Profile Photo
Elliott Smith
Bioscience, Natural Resources &
Public Health Library