Biological Sciences Research Guide

Resources for Biology, Biomedical Science & Genetics Programs

What are Primary and Secondary Sources?

When searching for biomedical literature, you will find two types of articles: primary and secondary. Primary sources include articles that describe original research. Secondary sources analyze and interpret primary research.

Primary Literature 

Characteristics Examples
 Original source of research or new discoveries.                                                                            Original research article published in a peer reviewed journal
Results of scientific activities and raw data Dissertations 
Methods section for other scientists to replicate study Technical reports

Secondary Literature

Characteristics Examples
Summarizes and synthesizes primary literature Literature review or review articles
Might be broader or less current than primary literature Books
Do not provide new data or research Chapters


Primary Source Tutorial

Examples of Primary and Secondary Sources