Skip to Main Content

CCC BIO-111 (Ramirez-Wright)

Fall 2022

Primary vs. Secondary Scientific Literature

Primary Literature 

Primary Literature is peer reviewed, original research presented in an article. Some characteristics of primary literature may include

1. A "Materials and Methods" section and "Results" section.

2. Extensive footnotes/references to previous research. 

3. They are usually very specific: mentioning particular places, organisms, etc.

4. Papers will often contain an abstract and/or keywords as well as a review of the research which came before it (literature review), including how the author's research adds to, refutes, or otherwise engages with prior research.

5. Papers include an explicit description of what was done follows: the materials or methods used and/or the exact location and sampling procedures. A discussion section will attempt to place the work in a larger theoretical context and may suggest further research to follow and extend the conclusions.

6. Scientific journals rarely have cover photos or ornamentation, any illustrations will be used to support or demonstrate the research. 

7. Primary articles will often have multiple authors with university, government, or research industry affiliations. 

To search for primary literature sources in Rutgers Quicksearch, you can select "peer-reviewed" to filter the results. Several individual databases, available through the CCC and Rutgers Libraries, including the EBSCO databases, will have this option as well, and some database will break down primary articles further by clinical trials, randomized control trials, etc.  

Secondary Literature 

Secondary literature offers a summary or overview of primary literature.  Secondary literature may presented in magazine and newspaper articles, reviews, textbooks, podcasts, and radio and television reports, as well as reviews and meta-analyses in scientific journals.

Citation Resources

Biology Databases and Resources from CCC and Rutgers


© , Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Rutgers is an equal access/equal opportunity institution. Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to direct suggestions, comments, or complaints concerning any accessibility issues with Rutgers websites to or complete the Report Accessibility Barrier / Provide Feedback form.