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Advanced Health Sciences Research: Primary & Secondary Sources

This guide is designed to assist Nursing and Health Sciences students with research projects.

Primary (Original Research) Literature Sources

Primary literature includes documents written at the time of a study, and present the information or raw data resulting from original research conducted by the authors.

  • Notable examples are journal articles that provide original reports of research.
  • Look for these headings when identifying primary literature: A primary research article will typically contain a materials and methods section, a results section (often featuring charts, diagrams, and data tables), and a conclusion or discussion section.


Article segments from:
Livshits, A., Rappaport, Z.H., Livshits, V., & Gepstein, R. (2002). Surgical treatment of painful spasticity after spinal cord injury. Spinal Cord, 40, 161-166.

Secondary Literature Sources

Secondary Sources are documents that analyze, interpret, discuss or evaluate existing research.

  • Secondary sources are often broad in topic, and will incorporate the works of many other researchers in a single article.
  • Examples include journal articles that review primary sources, or the literature written on a topic: systematic reviews, meta-analysis articles, commentary/opinion articles.
  • Secondary (review) articles will seldom contain a materials and methods section as original research is not presented.

Subject Guide

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