Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

SCI 100- Science: First Year Seminar- Davis: Step 3: Locating and Using Primary Sources

Step 3:

Now that you have located and identified secondary (Background) sources and understand how they differ from scholarly sources, the next step is to focus on the most important scholarly sources for science: Primary Scientific Sources.

Step 3a: Primary and Secondary Sources in the Sciences


Primary sources are published works generated on the front lines of science. They record new knowledge coming from field work and laboratories of the discipline. They are the source of original data which either supports or invalidates the researcher's hypothesis. They include: published reports of original research, experiments, direct observations in the field and the theories that arise from them. Examples include original research studies written up by researchers and published in scholarly journals, laboratory notebooks and other original recorded data, conference presentations on original discoveries, doctoral dissertations based on original research.


Secondary sources are published works which interpret, comment on or evaluate primary sources. Examples include published meta-analysis, systematic review articles, expert opinion, committee reports, background articles, book reviews, editorials, readers' letters to the editor, etc. Scientists who interpret, comment on or evaluate the research of other scientists have created a secondary source.

Rule of Thumb

If the author is NOT the person who did the research, it's secondary.

Step 3b: Watch This Video!

Step 3c: Assignment: Primary and Secondary Articles from the Databases

Search one or more of the databases below and locate a primary research article on your topic. Upload a PDF of the full article (not merely the abstract) to the Primary and Citation dropbox.