In the sciences, the primary literature presents or comments upon the immediate results of research activities. It often includes analyses of data collected in the field or the laboratory. It is very current and specialized. Examples of primary literature in the sciences include:
The secondary literature summarizes and synthesizes the primary literature. It is both broader and less current than the primary literature. Since most information sources in the secondary literature contain exhaustive bibliographies, they can be useful for finding more information on a particular topic. Examples of secondary literature in the sciences include:
The tertiary literature deals with broad, discipline-level topics in the sciences (like biochemistry or evolution) and can be a useful starting point when looking for background information on a research topic. The tertiary literature primarily reports very well-established facts in the scientific literature. Examples of tertiary literature in the sciences include:
What is a literature review?
Literature reviews (also called review articles) survey and synthesize primary research on a particular topic.
Why are literature reviews a good starting point for researching a topic?
How can I tell if an article is a literature review?
Usually the abstract or introduction to a literature review will state the authors' intention to survey or analyze the literature on a particular topic. Literature reviews usually have extensive bibliographies, with perhaps 50 - 200 sources cited. Literature reviews usually do NOT present data or other very specific results of research.
Note that many articles that present primary research include a section that reviews pertinent scientific literature as background for the paper: this isn't the same thing as a literature review or review article.
In BIOSIS, literature reviews are identified as such in the "Literature Type" field
Peer review is the process by which most scholarly journals evaluate articles submitted for publication. The "peer" part of peer review refers to the fact that the individuals who evaluate the articles for journals are researchers working in the same area as the author.
Publishing in the peer-reviewed literature:
The peer review process
Reviewers evaluate manuscripts based upon their scientific validity and the significance of their contribution to the body of scientific knowledge.
Once an article is published in a peer-reviewed journal, it may appear in print, online, or both, depending on the journal's format. In any case, journal articles are indexed in article databases like BIOSIS. Researchers, students, and others interested in the scientific literature can search article databases to locate peer-reviewed articles of interest to them.
Peer review is not a guarantee
Articles that are peer-reviewed have been carefully evaluated by experts in the field, but this doesn't mean that everything in the peer-reviewed literature is correct. Results published in peer-reviewed articles may later be found to be unsound, or may simply be contradicted by new findings. The continual re-evaluation of previous research findings is one of the primary mechanisms by which scientific understanding is advanced.
However, information in the peer reviewed literature has been subjected to rigorous scrutiny by experts in the field, which is not necessarily true of non-peer reviewed publications. Consequently, scientific claims made in the non-peer reviewed literature should be considered with an extra degree of skepticism.
Look at the article:
Look at the journal in which the article was published:
Still not sure? Here are some examples of peer reviewed and non-peer reviewed science publications online:
|Peer reviewed||Not peer reviewed|
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