Answered By: Kim Read
Last Updated: Jul 15, 2016     Views: 10862

Are you looking for a primary research journal article? If so, that is an article that reports on the details and results of a research study conducted by the authors themselves. These articles are often, but not always, structured in a standard format called IMRAD, which stands for the sections of the article:

Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion. 

While these 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 are NOT primary research articles may discuss research studies, but they are not reporting on the authors' original research, they are summarizing and commenting on research conducted and published by someone else.

You can search for primary research articles in a similar way that you search for other peer reviewed articles. (This answer will explain the basic process for finding peer reviewed articles.) From your results list, you can read the abstracts (summaries) of the articles to determine if the articles are primary research articles. (Your articles must also be peer reviewed, and dissertations are not considered peer reviewed). But if you get hundreds or thousands of results, there are a few different techniques to try to focus your search on primary research articles, 

  1. Add the keywords "this study"  or "a study" to your search along with your other keywords.
  2. Add results AND method* (this yields both methods and methodology) to your search along with your other keywords. With both of these techniques, you will still need to examine each article closely to see if it is reporting on the authors' original research and not a synthesis of others' research.
  3. Filter by Document Type on the Advanced Search page of most databases and choose Case Study (a case study is one type of primary research article). In ProQuest databases, it looks like this:

document type

All of these results are generally primary research articles, but keep in mind that while all case studies are primary research, not all primary research is in the form of a case study, so you may be missing some primary research articles on your topic by searching this way.

4, In the ERIC database, you can choose "Reports - All" and/or "Reports - Research" under Publication Type when searching for primary research articles. 

reports publication type in ERIC  database

Finally, if you're reading an article that isn't primary research but is peer reviewed and on your topic, chances are the authors will mention research done by others and include some primary research articles in the references section of the article you're reading. You can then search for those articles in the CU collections.

If you still can't find primary research articles, contact us by email, text, chat, or phone, and we can help.

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