Skip to main content
site header image

BIO 201: Choosing Your Sources Carefully

Tools, resources, and tips for research projects in BIO 201

John Oliver on Scientific Studies

Primary, Secondary, Tertiary

Primary Sources

  • Original research papers 
  • the "first" reporting of new scientific discovery
  • Published in peer-reviewed, professional journals specific to the scientist's field
  • Usually includes photographs, graphs, and tables 
  • Have an extensive bibliography
  • Includes lots of technical language and jargon specific to the scientist's field

Secondary Sources

  • the "second" reporting of a new scientific discovery
  • reports on discoveries in a more accessible form, so that those outside of the field can read and understand it
  • summarizes evidence
  • aimed a people who are not experts in a field, but have some knowledge of it
  • Usually includes graphs and tables
  • Has a bibliography
  • Often published in peer-reviewed, professional journals
  • Many labeled at "tutorial" or "review"
  • Do not usually include a "methods" section
  • Data presented will include a citation to the original research article
  • Includes more background information than primary literature

Tertiary Sources

  • the "third" reporting of new scientific discoveries
  • Usually found in newspapers, magazines, and internet publications
  • Often written by journalists who may not have a scientific background
  • Audience is the general public
  • report on and summarize new discoveries
  • rarely include bibliographies