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HC 317: Bacterial Symbiosis: Secondary Sources

Research vs. Review Articles video by Jennifer Lee of University of Calgary.

5 Differences Between Research and Review Papers infographic by Andrea Hayward of Editage Insights.

Research articles contain the original data and conclusions of the researchers who were involved in the experiments.

These types of articles should be consulted any time you need to get more information about how an experiment was carried out or if you need to review the original data.

Review articles give an overview of the scientific field or topic by summarizing the data and conclusions from many studies.

These types of articles are a good starting place for a summary of what has been happening in the field.  They often contain more background information than research articles.

Source:  Science Buddies. (n.d.). How to read a scientific paper. Retrieved from

Anatomy of Review Articles

Review articles in scientific journals provide an overview of the field or topic by summarizing and synthesizing the data and findings from many experiments or studies (research articles).

These articles usually include sections for Introduction, Review Topics, and Conclusion.  Since review articles do not contain original research (secondary sources), they do not include sections for Methods, Results, and Discussion (primary sources).

The sections help with identifying a secondary source and often contain standard pieces of information.

Dissection of Review Articles

It is important to understand which sections of a review article contain useful information to save time and effort.  The order in which to read the sections is determined by the project.  For example, a student looking for scientific explanations should start with the introduction while a scientist looking for new research directions should start with the conclusion.

Title gives the primary keywords describing the field or topic and reflects the core contents of the article.  It appears as part of the article details.

Titles of secondary sources usually contain more general keywords compared to the technical jargon in the titles of primary sources.

Article details usually include these pieces of information:

  1. Title
  2. Authors
  3. Source
  4. DOI
  5. Document Type
  6. Hyperlinked Outline
  7. PDF Full-Text

Abstract gives a brief overview of the article.

Abstracts usually include these pieces of information:

  1. Introduction = why they did it
  2. Topics = what did they review
  3. Conclusion = what it means

Introduction (or background) gives background information about the field or topic and prepares the reader for what will be discussed.

Introductions usually include these pieces of information:

  1. Need = what is the motivation
  2. Context = what is known about it
  3. Objective = what will be discussed

Topics gives a synthesized review of the literature organized by citation patterns and trends.

Review topics usually include these pieces of information:

  • Thread = what is it
  • Discussion = what is known about it

Conclusion gives the analysis and opinions of the authors based on the literature reviewed and suggestions for future research.

Conclusions usually include these pieces of information:

  1. Summary = what did they cover
  2. Critique = what do they think about it
  3. Recommendations = what to do next

References gives the sources cited in the article.  It may be used to find other references on the topic.

Bibliographic details usually include these pieces of information:

  1. Authors
  2. Title
  3. Source
  4. Date Published
  5. Identifiers

Anatomy and Dissection of Summary (News) Articles

Summary (also called news) articles in scientific journals and magazines and from news sites provide an overview of the data and findings from one experiment or study (research article).



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