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University of Portland Clark Library

BIO 277: Introductory Cell Biology and Genetics Lab: Reading Articles

Reading Journal Articles

Understanding Journal Articles - Fill in the Gaps

What is Peer Review?

Primary or Secondary?

Both primary and secondary sources can be useful to you in your research, but you need to be able to distinguish which is which. Both types of information sources can be found using library databases, and both may even be peer-reviewed sources. So how do you tell which is which? Refer to the table below for some quick ways to determine if the source you've found is a primary source or a secondary source.

Primary Sources

  • Describe original research, or original analysis of someone else's data
  • Articles and papers by the researcher(s) presenting data and research findings
  • Describe methodology and findings
  • Terminology: Often scientific terminology and jargon; authors assume familiarity with the subject

Secondary Sources

  • Discuss research done by others
  • News, magazine articles, books, and review articles explaining, analyzing, or commenting on research
  • Published AFTER primary sources (“second”)
  • Terminology: May use less jargon and/or assume less familiarity with subject

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