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Bio 1B Research Skills Guide: Scientific Literature: Primary research articles

Primary research articles

Primary research articles

In the sciences, primary research articles:

  • present a first-hand report of research activities performed by the author(s) themselves.
  • usually include a description of methods, tables and figures of original data and an analysis of results
  • are very current (as of the date of publication) and highly specialized
  • are published after undergoing peer review
    More about peer review

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Identifying primary research articles

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

  • Does the abstract indicate that an experimental study was 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 ("primary" because the experiments were carried out by the researchers who wrote the article).​

Primary research article

For more help

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Elliott Smith
Bioscience, Natural Resources &
Public Health Library