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Library resources, databases and articles for biology research

Primary Articles

  • In a Primary Science Article, authors report on the results of their own experiment or investigation
  • Articles will often include a methods and results section which describes their specific study
  • Basic anatomy of a Primary Article:
    1. Title, authors, and author affiliation
    2. Abstract
    3. Introduction
    4. Materials and Methods
    5. Results (with figures)
    6. Discussion
    7. Conclusion
    8. References

Review Articles

Review articles serve a different purpose than primary articles. They are written to summarize and synthesize studies by others on the same topic. This provides the research community with one article that summarizes the background and context as well as an overview of what is already known about a specific topic.

There are four types of review articles:

  1. Traditional or Narrative Reviews:
    • Broad
    • Identify gaps or weaknesses in scholarly literature
  2. Systematic Review:
    • Rigorous
    • Systematic review articles include a specific time frame and research scope that can be very narrow
    • evaluate and synthesize findings
  3. Meta-Analysis:
    • Form of systematic review
    • Uses statistical analysis of the findings from several studies on the same subject to identify common themes in the research
  4. Meta-Synthesis:
    • Authors use non-statistical methods to analyze quantitative findings

Anatomy of a Review Article:

Review articles look like research papers. They contain:

  1. Methods
  2. Results
  3. Conclusion

When in doubt, read the methods section to see if the authors are reporting on their personal research. If they are, it is a primary article.

Peer Reviewed or Scholarly Articles

Academic research articles are also called peer-reviewed or scholarly articles. To be considered a peer-reviewed article, it must be read and approved by other scholars in the same field.


A scholar writes an article and submits it to a scholarly journal. Before the article can be published it is sent out by the journal to a group of scholars in the same field. Those scholars read the article and either approve it or request changes before publication. Only after it has been approved can it be published by the journal.

This process helps ensure that information published in scholarly journals is accurate and reliable.