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Primary Sources


Examples of Primary SourcesExamples of Secondary Sources
Research articles published in scholarly, peer-reviewed journals Summaries, critiques, or interpretations of primary literature
Clinical trials Review articles
Interviews Textbooks (can also be a tertiary source)
Correspondence Dictionaries (can also be a tertiary source)
Patents Directories (can also be a tertiary source)
Lab notebooks Encyclopedias (can also be a tertiary source)
Theses & dissertations Handbooks (can also be a tertiary source)
Technical Reports

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Where to find primary sources

To find primary source literature in the sciences, use library databases. Research guides can help you identify databases for the discipline you are interested in.

Note: The library databases may contain references to both primary and secondary literature. You will need to examine each resource carefully to determine which one it is.

History of Science - Primary Sources

History of Science

Finding primary resources in the history of science or medicine is the same as finding historical primary resources.

Definition of Primary Sources

Primary source literature in the sciences:

  • documents the results of original research
  • is written by those who have conducted the research
  • includes firsthand information about their methodologies, data, results, or conclusions.

Secondary source literature in the sciences:

  • summarizes, compares, critiques, or interprets the primary literature.

Tertiary sources in the sciences:

  • are collections of primary and/or secondary sources.

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