Primary Research vs. Literature Review

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…

  1. Look for section headings like Abstract/Summary, Introduction, Methods, Results and Conclusion/Discussion
    abstract     conclusions     lit review
    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!
  2. The Results section will often contain graphs and charts.
    results
  3. If an Abstract section exists, look for words like “this study examines….” or “we did research to find…”
    abstract
  4. 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.
    Capture
  5. 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:

Systematic Review

  1. Comprehensive report of all relevant research in one area;
  2. Identifies the literature and summarizes the findings;
  3. Can contain sections similar to a research paper such as Abstract and Conclusions.
    abstract conclusion

Meta-Analysis

  1. Review of previously published data;
  2. Uses statistical methods to identify patterns in the data, such as sources of disagreements or other relationships;
  3. 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.

method

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.

<<return to the PSY215 Instructional Session
 proceed to the Databases tutorial for PSY215>>

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