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CU Science Discovery Camp

What is the difference between primary and secondary sources?

Primary sources are original materials that are used to report research or scientific discoveries for the first time.

Examples of primary sources include:

  • A journal article that describes the results of original research or scientific experiments
  • Statistics or data
  • Theses or dissertations
  • Technical Reports
  • Conference Proceedings
  • Patents

Secondary sources are materials that summarize, interpret, or otherwise repackage the information found in primary sources.

Examples of secondary sources include: 

  • Review articles that summarize current literature on a topic.
  • Textbooks
  • Newspaper or magazine articles reporting on primary research or studies
  • Blogs
  • Criticism or analysis of primary research

In-Class Activity

Review and discuss the three resources with your group.  Each set of resources contains at least one primary and at least one secondary resource from academic journals.  Which resources do you think are primary and which secondary?  What makes you think so?


  1. Public perspectives and media reporting of wolf reintroduction in Colorado

  2. Lack of natural control mechanisms increases wildlife–forestry conflict in managed temperate European forest systems

  3. Growth rates and variances of unexploited wolf populations in dynamic equilibria


  1. Comparison of pesticide exposure in Honey Bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae) and Bumble Bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae): Implications for risk Assessments

  2. Pesticide exposure of wild bees and honey bees foraging from field border flowers in intensively managed agriculture areas

  3. The threat of pesticide and disease co-exposure to managed and wild bee larvae


  1. Windthrow resistance of apple trees grafted in an orchard

  2. Characterization of a new apple luteovirus identified by high-throughput sequencing

  3. A multifaceted overview of apple tree domestication


  1. Alternative states on coral reefs: beyond coral–macroalgal phase shifts

  2. Maintenance of fish diversity on disturbed coral reefs

  3. Turbulence and coral reefs


  1. Who adopts agroforestry in a subsistence economy?—Lessons from the Terai of Nepal

  2. Pecan agroforestry systems improve soil quality by stimulating enzyme activity

  3. Agroforestry standards for regenerative agriculture


  1. Photoacclimation in freshwater diatoms: interspecific and inter-habitat comparisons

  2. Light and temperature effects on bioactivity in diatoms

  3. Diatoms recovery from wastewater: Overview from an ecological and economic perspective