Skip to Main Content

EBIO 1940 Introduction to Scientific Writing: Primary vs. Secondary Sources

Start here to find information about your EBIO 1950 assignment.

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

Answer the following questions about your example with your group:

  • Is the example a primary or secondary source? 
  • Is the example from a peer-reviewed journal (i.e. is it an original research paper or a literature review)? Or it is from another type of source (news article, website, etc.)?

Example 1

Example 2

Example 3

Example 4