Answered By: Greg Armstrong
Last Updated: Jan 09, 2015     Views: 185

A primary research article is almost always published in a peer-reviewed journal and does the following:

  • Asks a research question or states a hypothesis or hypotheses
  • Identifies a research population
  • Describes a specific research method
  • Tests or measures something
  • Includes a section called "method" or "methodology." This may only appear in the article, not the abstract.
  • Includes a section called "results."

Words to look for as clues include: analysis, study, investigation, examination, experiment, numbers of people or objects analyzed, content analysis, or surveys.

To contrast, the following are not primary research articles:

  • Literature reviews
  • Meta-Analyses (These are studies that arrive at conclusions based on research from many other studies.)
  • Editorials
  • Letters
  • Chapters in books
  • Encyclopedia articles
  • Speeches and interviews

To find these articles, you will want to look in our article databases for "academic/peer reviewed articles." Generally, you can limit your search to "academic/peer reviewed articles" by clicking in a check-box on the search page.

Scholarly/peer-reviewed check-box

You will most likely also want to select the full-text  in order to only bring back articles for which the full text is available. Now search for your topic.

Full-text check-box

Remember that not all articles will use the same terminology, so think of various terms that could be used to describe your topic. You may need to search for several of these terms until you find the article you are looking for. You may find this LibGuide useful - it explains how to recognize primary research articles in the field of Biology.

Now that you have your search results, use the description above of what a primary research article contains to determine if the article you are looking at is in fact a primary article. If you need further assistance, please contact the library for help. (Middletown campus 1-540-868-7170 OR Fauquier Campus 1-540-347-6259)

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