Primary and secondary literature in Health Sciences
Are you required to use original/primary research articles in your assignment rather than referencing secondary research articles that summarise research findings? Sometimes it can be tricky to identify which is which. Here’s some guidance:
A primary source = original research,
- Someone has conducted an experiment.
- They are written by the people who ran the experiment to communicate the methods they used and the results they found.
- Primary literature provides the opportunity for others to duplicate the research.
- Examples of primary sources include: research articles, clinical reports, case-control studies and case studies.
A secondary source = analysis or summary of other papers.
- They are written by other scientists who have not conducted the experiment themselves, but are giving an overview,
- They bring together several papers on a particular topic to identify patterns in research.
- Examples of primary sources are: reviews, systematic reviews, meta-analyses, synopses and guidelines.
Have a go at identifying primary and secondary papers with this short quiz.
For more information on study designs here’s a good website from the The Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, based at Oxford University: