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PSY 201 (Miller): Primary Research

Research Guide for Principles of Psychology

What Are Primary Research Articles?

Primary research articles present the results of the author's original researchPrimary refers to the fact that it is written by the person who did the research, not a secondary source (like a journalist summarizing the study results for their paper, or a literature review summarizing the research others have done on a topic).

A primary research article reports on the details and results of a research study. The authors of a primary research journal article are the people who conducted the research. These articles are often (but not always) structured in a standard format called







 Look for these headings to help you determine if an article is original research. While primary research articles usually start with a brief literature review of previous and similar research, the rest of the article focuses on the authors' original research. For example, the "methods" or "methodology" section describes the participants in the study, the sample size, and the research procedure used.

Articles that have "meta-analysis," "review," "literature review," or "systematic review" in their TITLE are usually secondary sources.

Step 1: Developing the Search

  • Brainstorm keywords for your topic. Not sure how? Watch this.
  • Enter some of your keywords into an a psychology database, OneSearch, or Google ScholarDo not search with sentences or long phrases
  • Filter your results for peer reviewed articles/journals.
  • Look for primary research articles from the results list, OR use one of the techniques listed in step 2.
  • Evaluate your results. If you're not finding what you need, try these search tips, or ask a librarian
  • Looking for a specific article that you have the title for? Watch this quick video for instructions.

Step 2: Refining Your Results

You can search for primary research articles in a similar way that you search for other peer-reviewed articles. From your list of results, you can sift through to look for primary research.

If you have hundreds or thousands of results and want to try to focus your search on primary research articles, by filtering by methodology.

If you are looking for a specific population or age group there are filters for those as well.

Important! From your list of results, you will still need to examine each article to see if it is primary research and not a synthesis of others' research.

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