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Primary Sources for Science: Home

Learn about what are considered primary sources, how to find them at GSU, how to use them, and how to cite them.

What are primary sources?

PRIMARY SOURCE: The original research experiment discussed by the researchers what they found

SECONDARY SOURCE: An interpretation, commentary, or analysis of someone else's research (of a primary source)

TERTIARY SOURCE: A collection of primary and/or secondary sources

*Note: what is considered a primary source varies by discipline

Primary Sources

Characteristics of a primary source

  • It is factual

  • It reports on original discoveries, ideas, and/or research

  • It is typically found in scholarly, peer-reviewed journals

  • It explains a research methodology

  • It gathers and analyzes data

 


 

Examples of primary sources

  • Original research experiments

  • Experimental Data

  • Proceedings from science conferences or meetings

  • Theses or Dissertations

  • Technical Reports

  • Patents

  • Lab Notebooks

  • Instrument measurements

 

Secondary Sources

 

Characteristics of a secondary source

  • It is interpretative 

  • It analyzes or comments on an experiment(s) or research

  • It reviews previous research or the published literature on a topic


 

Examples of secondary sources

  • Literature reviews

  • Systematic reviews

  • Meta-analyses

  • Letters to the Editor

  • Perspectives

  • Textbooks

*Note: these are all considered secondary sources even if they are published in a scholarly journal and/or have a research methodology

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Tertiary Sources

Tertiary sources are reference materials like Encyclopedias, Dictionaries, Handbooks, and Tables. They are collections of primary sources and secondary sources, that categorize and index information. 

Cite your sources!

A primary source is an original research article, experiment, or set of data. It is someone else's discovery, idea, or intellectual property, so you MUST cite a primary source correctly to give those researchers credit. 

Click to learn more about the different citation styles!