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Links to resources for conducting Biology research at Okanagan College, and tips on how to use them. This guide also links to course-specific research strategy guides for some OC Biology courses.

Scientific Information

Scientific information evolves through a continuous process of communication among scientists. It develops in cycles moving from ideas, through research that tests the ideas, to publications reporting the results, first in the primary literature and later in the secondary and, if significant enough, in the tertiary literature.

Types of Scientific Scholarly Articles

You will encounter many types of articles and it is important to distinguish between these different categories of scholarly literature. 

Primary Research Articles

A primary research article describes an original research study that aims to gain new knowledge on a topic through direct or indirect observation and research and reports on results.  These include quantitative or qualitative data and analysis. In science, a primary article will often include the following sections:  Abstract; Introduction, Methods/Materials, Results, and Discussion (often called IMRD) plus References.

Peer-reviewed research papers are published in scholarly journals/periodicals and directed toward a scientific audience. Often in journal sections headed Research Articles. Examples: Nature, Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Biological Sciences

They may be accompanied in such journals by Research Reports, Research Letters which are not peer-reviewed

Review Article

In the scientific literature, this type of article provides a synthesis of existing research on a particular topic. Secondary Articles will summarize & interpret primary research. They may be termed as Literature Reviews because they will look at many primary articles and give an overview of the primary literature on a topic. These are useful when you want to get an idea of a body of research that you are not yet familiar with, and are a good sources for citations of primary articles

They do NOT contain an experiment, study, or research. If you are unsure, read the abstract (summary) of the article.  Often the abstract will contain the word review or summary as a clue. Some reviews may include an introduction and methodology section to explain the nature of the review activity

Appear in peer-reviewed journals. Specific journals publish mainly review articles, such as Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, and Trends in Ecology and Evolution

May include Reviews (Narrative),Systematic Reviews, or Meta-analyses  


Refers to articles that have undergone a rigorous review process by peers/experts in their discipline, often including revisions to the original manuscript, before publication in a scholarly journal. Primary research articles in reputable life science journals are always peer-reviewed. Reviews are often peer-reviewed as well. 

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