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Science Writing: Primary vs Review

A guide to resources for writing and citing in the sciences.

Primary Research vs. Review Articles

A primary research article presents original research performed by the authors.

A review summarizes the current research on a particular topic.  

Both types of articles are usually peer reviewed and many journals publish both. Often, it’s easy to tell a primary research article from a review simply by looking at the article’s structure. Sometimes, it’s not as obvious due to the science discipline or the journal’s format. 

Practice determining the difference using the document below:

How to Read a Primary Research Article

The Parts and Uses of Primary Research Articles - This website contains tips on how to approach and read primary research articles. From Science Buddies, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting science literacy.

How to Read and Review a Scientific Journal Article - This document contains tips on how to critically analyze a research article. From Duke University's Writing Studio.



How to Find Review Articles

Review articles are secondary sources that summarize a collection of primary sources.  They provide a summary about the current state of research on a particular topic.  Therefore, they are useful when you don't know a lot about a topic or need a broad overview.