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BIOL 140 - Introduction to Molecular and Cellular Biology (Benore)

Librarian introduction

The assignment

You must find at least 2 primary journal articles (also called research articles) about an organelle.

What is a primary (research) article?

A primary research article is a journal article that reports the author(s) findings about research that the author(s) conducted.

What are the characteristics of a primary research article?

Once you have found an article, look for these sections (they may not always be designated with section headers:

  • Abstract - A summary of the article. Other types of articles (review, short communications, etc.) may also have an abstract.
  • Introduction - This contains background information about the research. It should include a thesis statement and a literature review of other research related to this study. This section should answer questions such as: Why are the authors conducting the study? What do the authors expect to find as a result of the study? Whose work are the authors building upon? Why is that work important to this research?
  • Materials and Methods - The techniques or procedures used for carrying out the experiment. This may also include specific settings, amounts, measuring apparatus, etc. Things that help someone else replicate the experiment go in this section.
  • Results - A description of what happened as a result of the experiment. This section often includes tables, charts, graphs, or other visual depictions of the data gathered.
  • Discussion - This is the Why? portion of the article. The discussion can be confirming (the authors got the expected results) or predictive (the authors speculate about why the expected results were not found).
  • References - The resources consulted to support the various aspects of the research. Other types of articles will also include references.

There are other clues that you have found a primary research article. These are general rules of thumb, but aren't true for all primary research articles:

  • The article title is long and contains technical jargon
  • There are several authors and one of the authors is a corresponding author (the person you would contact if you have questions about the research)
  • The article is written in 1st person narrative. In other words, you will see the author(s) referred to as "I" or "we". For example, "I assembled the apparatus...", "We performed a ...", or "Our lab discovered ..."


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