In science, primary sources contain original data and ideas, representing the published record of an experiment or investigation conducted by the author(s). You might be more familiar with tertiary sources, which are reports that discuss primary sources rather than contribute original information to the scientific field. Many times, you might come across a tertiary source in a newspaper, where you'll read a summary of a newly released study. It can be very helpful to track down the original, primary source in order to get a complete picture of the study. This is an important skill to master, even if you don't plan on conducting original research yourself!
The following instructions give you some tips on locating these types of sources.
1. Come to the Barber Library and locate the journal Science in the shelves on the first floor.
2. Once you found an issue of Science you want to browse, go to the Table of Contents.
3. Look for the Perspectives articles that have a Report or Research Article associated with them. The article in the Perspectives section is the tertiary article and the Report or Research Article is the primary article.
1. Come to the Barber Library and locate the journal Nature in the shelves on the first floor.
2. Once you found an issue of Nature you want to browse, go to the Table of Contents.
3. Look for News & Views articles that have a Article or Letter associated with them. The article in the News & Views section is the tertiary article and the Article or Letter is the primary article.
1. Start by locating a tertiary article — newspapers and science-focused magazines are a good place to start for this.
2. A good tertiary article will include information about the primary source — look for information like the researcher's name, institution where the study was conducted, date, and even a link to the primary source.
3. If you can't find a link to the primary source in the tertiary article, conduct a Google search using all the information you were able to locate. You should be able to locate where the primary source was published in this search.
4. Often, publications where primary research is published charge money to read the full text. This is where the library comes in! Search for the journal name in the search bar on the library home page to see if the library has access to the journal in the appropriate date range. If the library does not have access to the journal, you can always request the full text for free using Interlibrary Loan!
This guide by COCC Barber Library is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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