Primary Research

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.
  3. If an Abstract section exists, look for words like “this study examines….” or “we did research to find…”
  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.
  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.

<<return to the PSY201 Instructional Session
 proceed to Literature Reviews tutorial for PSY201>>


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