This guide goes over how to find and analyze primary research articles in the sciences (e.g. nutrition, health sciences and nursing, biology, chemistry, physics, sociology, psychology). In addition, the guide explains how to tell the difference between a primary source and a secondary source in scientific subject areas.
To get started, choose one of the databases below. Once you log in, enter your search terms to start looking for primary articles.
Keep your search terms simple.
Use the "Advanced Search" feature of the database.
Re-read the assignment guidelines often
Not finding what you are looking for?
You can use the library's databases to search for primary research articles. A research article will almost always be published in a peer-reviewed journal. Therefore, it is a good idea to limit your results to peer-reviewed articles. Click on the Advanced Search-Databases tab at the top of this guide for instructions.
The following is _not_ primary research:
Review articles are studies that arrive at conclusions after looking over other studies. Therefore, review articles are not primary (think "first") research. There are a variety of review articles, including:
Having trouble? Look for a method section within the article. If the method section includes the process used to conduct the research, how the data was gathered and analyzed and any limitations or ethical concerns to the study, then it is most likely a primary research article. For example: a research article will describe the number of people (e.g. 175 adults with celiac disease) who participated in the study and who were used to collect data.
If the method section describes how the authors found articles on a topic using search terms or databases, then it is mostly likely a secondary review article and not primary research. If there is no method section, it is not a primary research article.
Other sections in a journal:
Your search may yield these items, too. You can skip these because they are not full write-ups of research:
Example of a primary research article found in the Library's Academic Search Complete database: (these authors conducted an original research study)
Example of a secondary article found in the Library's Academic Search Complete database: (these authors are reviewing the work of other authors)
Look for these sections: (terminology may vary)
Scan the article you found to see if it includes the sections above. You don't have to read the full article (yet). Look for the clues highlighted in the images below.