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Primary Sources and Original Research

Helpful tips on locating and evaluating primary sources and original research

Primary Research vs. Review Articles

Scholarly journals can be great places to locate primary research, however they also contain articles which review books, editorials, and review articles. 

Review articles may be long and contain citations, so at first glance they may look like a primary research article.  The authors of a review article usually evaluate, discuss, and analyze other's research on the topic, but offer no original research themselves and cannot be considered primary sources.  They can be helpful to gain an overview of the research that has been done in that area, and can help identify primary research articles by other authors. 

Primary research articles will generally follow a standard format; including sections with titles like "Methods" , "Results", and "Discussion".  Most will also have an abstract at the beginning of the article and a works cited list at the end.  Like with other types of articles, reading the abstract can often give you clues as to what the article will be about.   Look for phrases like "we measured", "we tested" , or "in our study we found" as these are often used in the presentation of original research.  Many primary research articles in the social and natural sciences will also contain graphs, charts, data tables or illustrations.

Try These Article Sources First

Subject Guides

  • Use the "Find Articles" tab in other Guides relevant to your research topic.
  • Try adding "results" or "methods" to your keyword search and read the article abstract to determine if the article contains original research being published for the first time in non-history social science fields like sociology, psychology, and education. 

Find Primary Sources

Tip: Try searching for digital copies of primary source material by using the phrase "digital collections" as part of your search along with keywords that describe your topic.

American Memory -- American Memory provides free and open access through the Internet to written and spoken words, sound recordings, still and moving images, prints, maps, and sheet music that document the American experience. (from the collections of the Library of Congress and other institutions)

Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers -- This site allows you to search and view newspaper pages from 1860-1922 and find information about American newspapers published between 1690-present. Chronicling America is sponsored jointly by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress as part of the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP).

OAIster -- Small GALILEO image--   A union catalog of more than 19 million digital resources from over 1,000 organizations developed by the University of Michigan and harvested using OAI-PMH (the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting). Digital resources in OAIster include items such as:

Digitized (i.e., scanned) books and articles
Born-digital texts
Audio files (e.g., wav, mp3)
Images (e.g., tiff, gif)
Movies (e.g., mp4, quicktime)
Datasets (e.g., downloadable statistics files) 

Note:  When full text is not available, try the InterLibrary Loan form.

Find Primary Sources

Tip: Try searching for digital copies of primary source material by using the phrase "digital collections" as part of your search along with keywords that describe your topic.

Is It a Magazine or Scholarly Journal?

What if I Can't Find the Full Article?

Looking for GALILEO?