A. Answer

Answered By: Kate Covintree     Last Updated: Dec 11, 2014     Views: 361

Understanding the different types of scientific sources: Primary, Seconary, Tertiary

 —a brief primer from Ms. Donna Lizotte

Scientists publish and communicate their original research in scientific journals, which are fundamentally different from news magazines.

Journalists write for news magazines, scientists publish in science journals.

PRIMARY LITERATURE:

Scientists publish and communicate their original research in scientific journals. Each journal has its own unique layout although they all follow the same general format.

Format:

  • Abstract
  • State question being addresses (Introduction)
  • Methods used to address the questions (Methods and/or Materials)
  • Data collected (Results)
  • Analysis of the data and their interpretations (Discussion)
  • Sources Cited (Bib)

In a scientific article, a scientist will present the information she has in a very straightforward manner. This type of publication is typically referred to as PRIMARY LITERATURE because it is presenting something new and novel. In addition it writing by the person (or persons) that has done the actual experiments being reported.  These articles must be reviewed by people in the field prior to publication to be sure the quality and value of the work – this is known as peer reviewed.

Examples of PRIMARY RESEARCH JOURNALS IN THE SCIENCES
These can be journals that publish all types of scientific research or specific for a particular discipline.

Nature    New England Journal of Medicine  ♦  Science  ♦  Journal of Neuroscience  ♦  Cell    Journal of Cell Biology

SECONDARY LITERATURE:

Secondary literature summarizes what is known from primary literature. They do not present the original data but often summarized what was learned from different pieces of primary research. These articles often present background information as well and these are good places to start when you are learning about a new topic.

Examples of SECONDARY LITERATURE sources 
This includes books, textbooks and various periodicals.

TERTIARY LITERATURE:

This information usually written for the nonscientific audience

Examples of TERTIARY LITERATURE sources
- Lay magazines – this information is typically unreferenced 
   o   Newsweek and newspaper articles (NY Times)

- Encyclopedia – used to familarize yourself with a topic 
   o   Encyclopedia of Genetics

PRIMARY SOURCE:

"Gene Therapy for red green color blindness in adult primates." Nature 461, 784-787 (8 October 2009) 
Published online 16 September 2009  
Katherine Mancuso, William W. Hauswirth, Qiuhong Li, Thomas B. Connor, James A. Kuchenbecker, Matthew C. Mauck, Jay Neitz & Maureen Neitz

 

SECONDARY SOURCE:

"Loci Color: Gene Therapy Cures Color-Blindness in Adult Monkeys."
Katherine Harmon. Scientific American (September 16, 2009)

 

TERTIARY SOURCE:

"Gene Therapy fixes color blindness in monkeys."
Jeanna Bryner, Senior Writer. MSNBC  (Wed. September 16, 2009)

For more information, check out the video below: