The Ellen Clarke Bertrand Library

Ecology, Evolution, & Conservation Biology: More Research Help

RefWorks and Citing Sources

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Bucknell Citation Guides

Primary Sources in the sciences

Primary Sources in the Sciences are not exactly like primary sources in history or literature. 

They are most often found as journal articles, and:

  • Report original research, ideas, or scientific discoveries for the first time
  • Report results/findings/data from experiments or research studies
  • May also be referred to as primary research, primary articles, or research studies
  • DO NOT include meta-analyses, systematic reviews, or literature reviews - these are secondary sources
  • Are frequently found in peer-reviewed or scholarly journals
  • Should explain the research methodology used (randomized controlled trial, etc)
  • Almost always include separate parts of the article called "methods," "results," and discussion or conclusions
  • Are factual, not interpretive

Examples of primary sources include:

  • Research studies or scientific experiments
  • Papers and proceedings from scientific conferences or meetings
  • Dissertations and Theses
  • Technical Reports
  • lab notebooks published online
  • Patents

Secondary sources  may also be useful, but you should be able to distinguish them from primary sources.  These typically involve reviews of the primary literature, meta-analysis of data from multiple primary sources, or editorial writing. 

Examples of these secondary sources are:

  • Publications about the significance of research or experiments
  • Reviews of the results of several experiments or trials
  • Analysis of a clinical trial
  • Letters to the editor, editorials, perspectives, or historical summaries

Subject Librarian

Jim Van Fleet's picture
Jim Van Fleet
Contact:
Bertrand Library
Research Help
570.577.3235
vanfleet@bucknell.edu
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