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BIOL 404 - Mech. Chronic Human Disease

How can I tell primary (research) articles from secondary (review) articles?

Primary (research) articles

Research articles are also called primary articles. These are the articles that you will need to find for this class. They are written by the researcher or researchers who did the experiment or observation. The standard format is that they have an abstract, an introduction that includes a literature review, a methods section, a results section, a conclusion, and references.

General characteristics:

  • Long, technical, detailed title
  • Many authors, including a corresponding author
  • Has abstract, introduction (including literature review), methods, results, conclusion, references
  • Tables, charts, graphs, etc. to visualize the data that the authors' collected
  • Written in first person narrative ("I performed...", "We discovered...", "Our lab found...")

Secondary (review) articles

Review articles are usually written by 1 to 3 authors and summarize the research in a field. These articles may discuss the change of focus of the research in a field over time or they may discuss the current state of research being done in different research labs at the moment.

General characteristics:

  • Short, easy-to-understand title
  • One to three authors
  • Few tables, charts, graphs, etc. to help the reader understand the topic
  • Written in third person narrative ("the San Francisco team found...", "the lab in Boston discovered...", "Spanish Flu in 1918 was found to be...").

Beware of other articles in scholarly journals!

Be careful! There are many other types of articles that can be found in scholarly journals. There may be book reviews, correspondence (e.g., letters to the editor), editorials, product reviews, and more. These cannot be used for your assignments.

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