University of New England - Innovation for a Healthier Planet

Research Help

Primary Sources for the Sciences

Primary sources in scientific fields are reports on original research written by the researchers themselves. These sources are published in scholarly journals and provide detailed information on methodologies, results, and references cited. Primary sources allow other researchers to evaluate research and build upon the findings; they may also identify or fill Gaps in the Literature.

Types of Primary Sources

  • Case ReportA detailed report of the symptoms, signs, diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up of an individual patient that usually describes an unusual or novel occurrence. Case reports are one of the cornerstones of medical progress and provide new ideas in medicine.
  • Clinical Studies There are two main types of clinical studies:
    Clinical Trial
    Researchers test an intervention, such as a potential drug, medical device, activity, or procedure, to find out if it is safe and effective. It also is referred to as an interventional clinical study.
    Observational Study
    Researchers observe participants on their current treatment plan and track health outcomes.
  • Cohort Studies Observational studies of groups selected by their exposure to factors hypothesized to influence occurrence of a particular disease or other outcome.
  • Dissertation
  • Laboratory Notebook
  • Pilot StudySmall-scale tests of methods and procedures to be used on a larger scale if the pilot study demonstrates that these methods and procedures can work.
  • Prospective StudyStudy design in which participants at risk for developing a condition are observed over time in order to isolate factors that influence the development of disease.
  • Randomized Controlled Trial A clinical trial where participants are randomly assigned to either a treatment group or a control group. The test-treatment group receive the treatment being studied while the control group receives either an alternative treatment, no treatment, or a placebo. Effects of the treatments are monitored to determine the efficacy of the treatment while reducing bias in both researchers and participants.
  • Research Article Articles that report on original research.

Finding primary sources

Search research databases for primary sources. Many databases contain both primary and secondary sources but include filters to limit your results to one of the source types listed above. Find recommended databases in research by subject for your course, topic or program or choose one of the following:

Questions & Help

If you have questions on this, or another, topic, contact a librarian for help!