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CHEM 301: Primary vs. Review

Resources for students in Dr. Miller's Chemistry Seminar.

Primary Articles

Primary sources vary by discipline! In the sciences, primary articles refer to original research about a given topic. Most of the articles in our science databases are primary articles. These primary articles are also the bulk of research and reading that working scientists and researchers use. 

Look for articles that contain the following sections:

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Materials, Methods, or Methodology
  • Discussion and/or Conclusion

Primary STEM articles generally contain charts, graphs, or some other form of data. The authors did some kind of experiment, observation, clinical trial, or case study in the hopes of answering a question. They are writing about data or new information.

Review Articles

Also called secondary sources, review articles summarize the known findings on an existing topic. This topic is usually broader than individual primary articles. You will also use our library databases to find reviews. 

Many, but not all, review articles contain one of these terms in their title or abstract:

  • Review
  • Systematic review
  • Literature review
  • Meta Analysis 
  • You may also see sentences like "Previous studies found..." or "The authors reviewed the literature"

Review articles in the sciences usually do not have sections like methodology or results. If they include any data, it will be drawn from other articles, not an original experiment. They are reviewing other sources.