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Scientific Writing

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

Journal Articles

When finding literature for writing, it's important to consult both primary and secondary sources to provide sufficient background and evidence for an author's claims. See below for information on how to distinguish primary vs. secondary articles.

Primary and Secondary Sources

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:

Primary Sources

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.

Secondary Sources

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.