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Stony Brook University

ESE 494 Honors Seminar on Research

The Different Types of Scientific Literature

As described by Patrick J. Schembri (13.12.2007), there are different types of scientific literature including primary, secondary, tertiary, and gray literature.

Primary Research Articles in the Sciences by University of Wisconsin-Madison

Primary Literature

Characteristics:

  • Report results of original research with new discoveries.
  • Factual not interpretive

Examples:

  • Journal articles (peer-reviewed)
  • Conference papers
  • Proceedings
  • Dissertations
  • Technical reports
  • Patents
  • Lab notebooks

Secondary Literature

Characteristics:

  • Analysis/discussions of original research
  • Comments on primary literature

Examples:

  • Books
  • Book chapters
  • Magazine articles
  • Review articles

Tertiary Literature

Characteristics:

  • Compilation of information from primary and secondary literature
  • A broad overview of a topic or data

Examples:

  • Encyclopedia
  • Handbooks
  • Textbooks

Gray Literature

Characteristics:

  • Often scientific or technical
  • Generally not available through databases or indexes

Examples:

  • Technical reports
  • Pre-prints
  • Standards
  • Patents