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Vertebrate Biology - Johnstown Campus: Primary & Secondary Sources

A guide to resources for Dr. Dahlin's Bio 1170 Vertebrate Biology course

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Primary vs. Secondary Sources in Science

Primary Sources in science typically report facts about discoveries, observations, experiments and tests. Examples include published results of research studies, scientific experiments and clinical trials, and proceedings of conferences and meetings

Secondary Sources analyze and interpret research results and scientific discoveries. Examples of these include publications about the significance of research or experiments, analyses of clinical trials, and reviews of the results of several experiments or trials.

In the ScienceDirect database, primary and secondary are distinguished by the labels Original Research Article and Review Article, as shown below.

The Research Process At-A-Glance

The following steps outline a simple and effective way for finding information for a research paper and citing the sources you find.

  • Develop a topic that asks a question or poses a problem that interests you.
  • State your topic/problem in the form of a question.
  • Select appropriate search terms for your subject within your question. 
  • Search subject oriented databases to locate journal articles.
  • Revise your topic, if necessary.
  • Determine how you will answer your question.
  • Evaluate your journal articles carefully!
  • Decide which articles to include in your research paper. 
  • Cite the sources you find following APA format.
  • When in doubt, contact your librarian.

The link below will help you refine your research topic.

Library Instruction Coordinator