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CHEM 151 (Roberts): Primary v. secondary sources

What is a Primary Source?

In the Sciences, primary sources include (but are not limited to):

  • Research studies or scientific experiments (tests a hypothesis or measures something and reports results)
  • Papers and proceedings from scientific conferences or meetings
  • Dissertations and Theses
  • Technical Reports
  • Patents


Most articles in scientific databases will be both scholarly and primary resources. But, scholarly secondary sources source do exist. They include:

  • Publications about the significance of research or experiments
  • Review of the results of several experiments or trials (meta-analyses or literature reviews)
  • Analysis of a clinical trial
  • Letters to the editor, editorials, perspectives

Primary research articles in the sciences