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Information Literacy: Primary vs Secondary Sources

Provides resoures on information literacy standards, handouts, and research guidance to support students' needs at various points through the program.

What is a Primary Source

A primary source is a firsthand account of information by an individual close to the topic. 

In health sciences specifically, a primary source is a document, mainly a peer-reviewed journal article, which reports a study, experiment, or event firsthand. Primary sources detail original research and are usually written by the individuals who performed the research or conducted the study.

Primary study designs:

  • Case Study 
  • Case Series
  • Cohort
  • Pilot Study
  • Cross-Sectionals or Survey
  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Clinical Trial

How do you locate primary sources in library databases?

PubMed - Use the "Article Type" filter and limit your search results to primary study designs. Note: You may need to choose Additional Filters first in order to get specific study designs to display under the Article Type.

EBSCO Databases - Some databases, such as CINAHL and MEDLINE, will allow you to limit to the study design in the advanced search. 

Otherwise, read through the article's method section to find out the design of the study.

What is a Secondary Source?

A secondary source will compile the research from others into one document or paper.

Secondary study designs:

  • Review
  • Literature Review
  • Narrative Review
  • Scoping Review
  • Systematic Review
  • Meta-analysis
  • Guideline