In sciences, primary literature consists of articles that report on research studies and are actually written by the researchers. Example: Geng, F., Ma, R., Ebina, Y., Yamauchi, Y., Miyamoto, N., & Sasaki, T. (2014). Gigantic Swelling of Inorganic Layered Materials: A Bridge to Molecularly Thin Two-Dimensional Nanosheets. Journal Of The American Chemical Society,136(14), 5491-5500. doi:10.1021/ja501587y
Tips for identifying primary literature:
- The word "study" is usually in the article abstract.
- The article is formatted according to variations on the scientific method - introduction, research questions/hypothesis, methods and materials, results/discussion, conclusions.
Secondary literature consists of articles that give an overview of studies that have been done in a research area. The authors did not do the laboratory research; the articles are based on literature research. Some types of secondary literature are review articles, review journal volumes, and topical journal volumes. Review article example: Klahn, M., & Beweries, T. (2014). Organometallic water splitting - from coordination chemistry to catalysis. Reviews In Inorganic Chemistry, 34(3), 177-198. doi:10.1515/revic-2013-0019
Secondary literature is a good place to start your research. You can find out about the trends in a research area and use the bibliographies to find primary literature in the area. Tips for identifying secondary literature:
- The words "review," "trends," or "history" frequently appear in the article abstract or title.
- The article comes from a journal with "Reviews" in its title.