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BIOL 162: Introduction to Mechanisms of Multicellular Life: What is a Primary Article?

Parts of a Primary Article

All the details of a study are specified and usually described in sections with the headings: Introduction, Materials and Methods, Results and Discussion. See below for examples of what to look for:

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screenshot of the first part of a research article, arrows point to the title, authors, introduction and journal title

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                            screenshot of the methods section of an article

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screenshot of a data table from a research study

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screenshot of the discussion section of the article

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Empirical / Original Research (Primary Research) Articles

  • Journal is often peer-reviewed
  • Highly detailed article that focuses on ONE specific study conducted by the authors
  • Often have multiple (2) authors with specified credentials
  • Geared toward people in this field
  • Language is technical and specific
  • Multiple pages long plus references
  • Sophisticated, detailed content with charts, diagrams and many references of other experts’ work done in this area
  • May be called a "primary," "original," or "empirical" article.
  • PRIMARY SOURCE – authors writing the article are the ones who conducted the research they are writing about

All the details of the authors’ study are specified and often described in sections with the headings: Introduction, Materials and Methods, Results and Discussion

Review (Secondary) Articles

  • Journal is often peer-reviewed
  • Highly detailed article
  • Often have multiple (2) authors with specified credentials
  • Geared toward people in this field
  • Language is technical and specific
  • Multiple pages long plus references
  • Sophisticated, detailed content with charts, diagrams and many references of other experts’ work done in this area
  • SECONDARY SOURCE - NOT firsthand study—authors reiterate what others have done, without describing how they conducted their own research.
  • Provides review of many other studies

Many review articles do not state a problem or hypothesis, no methodology, no findings or results of a specific study being conducted.  Exceptions of this are systematic reviews and meta-analysis.  
 

General Non-Scholarly Articles

  • Journal may be peer-reviewed, but article is not.
  • Very general article
  • One author whose knowledge and authority is not indicated
  • Geared toward non-technical general audience
  • Language is simple and common—not technical or precise
  • Short article
  • Simple and basic concepts and facts
  • No specific study conducted
  • No methods, analysis; limited works cited, tables, charts, statistical data

Which Is the Research Article?

Article 1: 15 votes (15%)
Article 2: 85 votes (85%)
Total Votes: 100

Primary / Research / Empirical Articles