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BIOC35: Principles in Parasitology

This guide will help students in BIOC35 find articles, know the types of sources and how to evaluate them, and develop effective readings strategies of scientific articles.

Primary, Secondary, Tertiary Sources & Grey Literature

Primary Sources are:

  • Researchers reporting first-hand about their new research
  • Includes some Journal articles and some Books (monographs)
Secondary Sources are:
  • Summarizing, analysing or reporting the work of other researchers.
  • No new research results are presented
  • Include Review articles, Systematic Reviews, Newspaper articles, some books and others
Tertiary Sources are:
  • Summarzing the well known and well accepted information on a subject
  • Includes textbooks, encyclopedias, websites, etc.
Grey Literature
  • Unpublished materials
  • May include lab notebooks, blogs, pre-prints, conference presentations, etc.

primary vs secondary sources infographic

Recognizing Primary Sources in the Sciences

Typically, Primary journal articles will have a common structure that includes:

  • Abstract 
  • Introduction 
  • Methods/Methods & Materials 
  • Resultts
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion. 

Secondary/Review articles frequently contain many of the same sections but frequently will not have a Methods or Methods & Materials section. If they do, they will discuss how the articles to be reviewed were found and selected.

Look for a Methods or Methods and Materials Section as a quick check to see if an article may be primary. Read this section to see if the researchers are talking about their new research.