Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

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.