So what is primary research?
- Discusses a narrow question or issue in the field;
- Presents a hypothesis to address that question;
- Creates an experiment or test to check their hypothesis;
- Reports on the results and typically describes new data;
- Authors describing research they designed and conducted themselves.
Let’s look at a primary research article for tips on how to actually recognize an article in the wild…
- Look for section headings like Abstract/Summary, Introduction, Methods, Results and Conclusion/Discussion
Protip: headings won’t always fit neatly into that label, ask yourself what is the section describing before dismissing an article that labels a section with “Background” instead of “Introduction”
CAUTION: some research articles contain literature reviews. These sections often explain how this study fits into the literature, but don’t let this confuse you–a literature review section does not make it a literature review!
- The Results section will often contain graphs and charts.
- If an Abstract section exists, look for words like “this study examines….” or “we did research to find…”
- The Methods section can be the easiest way to spot a research paper. This section describes how the authors set up their study and the subjects of the research.
- Just because you search for your subject and add “research paper,” does not mean your results will only contain research articles. The best way to ensure you have a research article is to search for these features, read for yourself and use your critical thinking skills! If you’re still struggling, you can always ask your instructor or a librarian.
So that means a literature review:
- Discusses a broad topic addressing the entire body of knowledge within the field;
- Summarizes and reviews existing research;
- Does not represent the original work done by the authors of the review, but describes research designed and conducted by others.
There are generally two types of literature reviews:
- Comprehensive report of all relevant research in one area;
- Identifies the literature and summarizes the findings;
- Can contain sections similar to a research paper such as Abstract and Conclusions.
- Review of previously published data;
- Uses statistical methods to identify patterns in the data, such as sources of disagreements or other relationships;
- Contains a Methods section that can be easily confused with a research article. However, instead of describing the research subjects and a test like in a research article, the meta-analysis literature review will describe how the authors gathered the different studies they are writing about.
Protip: Just because you search for your subject and add “literature review,” does not mean your results will only contain literature reviews. The best way to ensure you have a literature review is to search for these features, read for yourself and use your critical thinking skills! If you’re still struggling, you can always ask your instructor or a librarian.