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ERS111H5: Earth, Climate & Life

Sources in Science

When you search for your topic using either Article Search or the recommended databases, you will find different types of sources. Scholarly peer-reviewed journal articles, also known as original research articles, are primary sources in the sciences. While you will be often asked to cite these sources in your work, they are very focused and in-depth. They may not be a the best way for you to start learning about your topic.

Use secondary sources like review articles or book chapters to get into a new topic before you write, or, if the subject is completely unfamiliar, start with tertiary sources like handbooks.

This chart will help you determine whether the source is primary or not:

Sources can get tricky, as a peer-reviewed scholarly journal like Quaternary Science Reviews may publish both primary sources like original research articles and secondary sources like review articles and commentaries:

peer-reviewed journals publish both primary and secondary work





Below, we have two samples of scholarly sources from the same peer-reviewed journal, Quaternary Science Reviews. In the course of ERS120, you will learn to distinguish the primary source from the secondary one.

First Scholarly Source

Here is the full APA style citation for the first source we will examine:

Maslin, M. A., Brierley, C. M., Milner, A. M., Shultz, S., Trauth, M. H., & Wilson, K. E. (2014). East African climate pulses and early human

         evolution.  Quaternary Science Reviews, 101, 1-17. doi: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2014.06.012

Is it primary or secondary? What do you think? Why?

Quaternary Science Reviews article abstract

Second Scholarly Source

Here is the full APA style citation for the second scholarly source:

Potts, R. (2013). Hominin evolution in settings of strong environmental variability.  Quaternary Science Reviews, 73, 1-13.

        doi: 10.1016/j.quascirev.2013.04.003

Do you think this source is primary or secondary? How can you support your reasoning?

Quaternary Science Reviews article image