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MATHEMATICS: SUBJECT GUIDE: Primary Sources

Use this guide to get started doing mathematics research!

Mathematics Research

Statue of Alan Turing in England's Bletchley Park

image via Google Doodle

Lego Turing Machine

Primary Sources in the Sciences

Primary sources in the natural sciences are publications which provide a full description of original research and the presents the results of that research. The most common example of a primary source in the sciences is a scholarly article published in a peer-reviewed journal. Primary sources in the sciences include a description of the research and the results and references to other research in the field, and are factual, not interpretive. They can also take the form of more personal records and correspondence, including lab notebooks, diaries, and letters.

 

Primary Source

Secondary Source

Definition

Original materials that have not been filtered through interpretation or evaluation by a second party.

Sources that contain commentary on or a discussion about a primary source.

Formats (depending on the research being conducted)

See below for thorough list, but anything which presents the findings and presents full descriptions of original research.

See below, but anything which does NOT present original results, but instead discusses, critiques or comments on original research. Necessarily comes later in the publication cycle.

Example: Scientists Studying Industrial Fertilizer

Article in scholarly journal publishing results of testing for fertilizer levels.

Newspaper editorial calling for regulations on use of industrial fertilizer.

Example of Types of Sources

  • Conference Papers
  • Correspondence
  • Dissertations
  • Diaries
  • Interviews
  • Lab Notebooks
  • Notes
  • Patents
  • Peer-Reviewed Scholarly Article
  • Conference or Society Proceedings
  • Studies or Surveys
  • Technical Reports
  • Theses

 

  • Criticism and Interpretation
  • Dictionaries
  • Encyclopedias
  • Government Policy
  • Guide to Literature
  • Handbooks
  • Law and Legislation
  • Publications discussing Moral, Ethical or Political Aspects
  • Publications Analysizing Public Response or Opinion
  • Review Articles

 

(adapted from http://library.albany.edu/usered/dr/prisci.html)

What's a primary source?

Primary sources are original, uninterpreted information.  Scholars analyze primary sources in order to answer research questions. Examples of primary sources vary by discipline.

Examples in the humanities:

  • a novel
  • a painting
  • a theatre performance

Examples in the social sciences:

  • a political, social, or economic theory
  • a dataset
  • the results of an experiment published in a peer-reviewed journal

Example in the sciences:

  • the results of an experiment published in a peer-reviewed journal

Need Help?

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Eli Gandour-Rood, Science Librarian
egandourrood@pugetsound.edu

tel: (253) 879-3678

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