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Nursing Research Starter Kit: Primary & Secondary Resources

Primary Research Article

What is a primary research article?

A primary research article reports on the original research and findings of the authors. Primary research articles are also called empirical research articles or original research articles. 


Primary Article Characteristics

Primary research articles have the following sections:



A brief description of the scholarly article in the form of a title. It should at least give you a general idea about what the article is about. 



A preview of the scholarly article. It should address the purpose, method and results that will be found in the article.



Describes the purpose of the scholarly article. May provide an overview of the field and previous research in the form of a Literature Review. 



Describes how the research and what type of research was conducted. There should be enough detail that another researcher could duplicate the research described. 



Presents the outcome of the research. 



Analyzes the results to determine what potential impact it could have on the scholarly field or community. 



Reiterates points made throughout the article, including potential for further research. 



Works cited throughout the scholarly article by the author. The list should contain all the relevant information needed for you to find the resource for yourself. 

Secondary Research Article

What is a secondary research article?

A secondary research article reviews, summarizes, and discusses topics of interest. The research is not original; rather, the authors look at other existing research articles on the topic. Secondary articles are useful for learning about a topic of interest and gaining a better understanding at the overall scope or limitations of the research on that topic.


Secondary Article Characteristics Methods

Some secondary articles have different sections than a primary article. The sections may include an abstract, an introduction, and subject headings, as well as references. Other secondary articles, such as systematic reviews and meta-analyses, have the same sections as a primary articles. The difference is in the methods or methodology. If the methods describe how the author(s) researched or collected existing literature for their research, it is probably a secondary article.


Examples of secondary research articles include:


Literature Reviews

A literature review is an analysis of literature on a topic. It is used to gather background information on a certain topic, to determine major themes and trends, and show how your research fits into the field and current literature. Learn more with our Literature Reviews guide.


Systematic Reviews

A systematic review uses rigorous methodology to collect, examine, and synthesize the literature on a specific medical issue. A systematic review is more rigorous than a literature review. 



A meta-analysis is a type of systematic review that uses statistical methodology to combine numerical data from multiple studies and synthesize the results. 


Clinical Practice Guidelines 

Clinical practice guidelines are systematic, evidence-based recommendations on how to diagnose and treat a medical condition.