Primary Sources

Tertiary Main Secondary

 Primary sources present information which has not been previously published in any form in any other source. These sources may evolve through either formal or informal channels of communication. Journals, patents, and technical reports are examples of primary literature which have been evaluated through a peer-review process and are disseminated through published sources. Other primary sources, such as laboratory notebooks, memoranda, e-mail or listservs, are not usually published, but are nevertheless an important resource.

Informal communication involves person-to-person interactions between scientists, often between members of a cohesive group of researchers which is sometimes referred to as an "invisible college." This informal communication has the advantages of timeliness, selectivity, completeness, and development of personal rapport. Disadvantages include the possibility that researchers become too exclusive and miss important advances made by others outside their network, or that young researchers may have difficulty gaining access to the network.

 

Literature Type
Description
Access
Laboratory Notebook Bound books in which scientists record the progress of their research. Important in obtaining patents because they can be used to prove when and where events took place or discoveries were made. Laboratory notebooks are owned by the organization for which a scientists works. Access is limited to approved individuals within the organization.
Letters Journals Provide rapid publication of preliminary communications of fundamental research. Some journals include letters and short articles of this kind in the same issue as full-length research articles. Letters journals are indexed by indexing services.
Pre-print servers

This can refer either to a portion of a work,most commonly a journal article, printed and issued before the publication of the complete work, or a paper to be submitted at a conference that is printed for circulation prior to the holding of the conference.

From: John Feather and Paul Sturges, eds., International Encyclopedia of Information and Library Science (London: Routledge), 2003.

The circulation of preprints amongst interested persons is a common function of the invisible college and is considerably facilitated by use of the Internet, to the extent that it is now common to talk of e-prints. This type of circulation of texts is important in disciplines where the currency of information is vital and the need to claim priority of discovery is strong.

From: John Feather and Paul Sturges, eds., International Encyclopedia of Information and Library Science (London: Routledge), 2003.

Conference Papers and Proceedings Conference papers are reports of research that are read at a conference or meeting.

Proceedings are collections of conference papers that are published as a single volume.

Papers presented at conferences tend to be very current and deal with a specific, narrow topic. They may or may not be published after the meeting.
Most disciplinary indexing tools index conference papers, as do the two databases, PapersFirst and ProceedingsFirst. Often only the abstract appears in print. Papers that are bound and published as proceedings are more likely to be indexed.

Sometimes the full text can only be obtained from the author.
Dissertations and Theses Theses are research papers required for some Master's degrees.

Dissertations are presentations of original research written by a candidate for a doctoral degree.

Theses and Dissertations serve as a source of data that has been carefully researched by the candidate, and reviewed by a faculty committee.
Most disciplinary indexing tools index conference papers, as do the two databases, PapersFirst and ProceedingsFirst. Often only the abstract appears in print. Papers that are bound and published as proceedings are more likely to be indexed.
Sometimes the full text can only be obtained from the author.
Doctoral dissertations written in the US since 1861, as well as selected Master's theses and British, Canadian and European dissertations are indexed in ProQuest Digital Dissertations.

Full text of these documents is sometimes available via Interlibrary Loan. Most are available for purchase either in print or microfilm from University Microfilms, Inc.

Recent initiatives at some universities are making it possible for students to submit electronic theses and dissertations. See Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations and OhioLINK Electronic Theses and Dissertations Center for more information and to download the full text of some very recent theses and dissertations.

See a librarian for assistance in obtaining dissertations and theses.
Technical Reports Technical reports are prepared to describe the progress of research and development projects. This research is usually conducted by government agencies or supported by government grants or contracts. If the research continues over a period of years, the reports may be published in a series.

Technical reports may appear in different reference formats, including proceedings, transactions, annual reports, or bibliographies.
Many disciplinary indexing services index technical reports. The National Technical Information Service (NTIS) database also indexes and summarizes unclassified US government sponsored research, development and engineering.

NTIS is the means through which technical reports are made available for sale from government agencies.

See a librarian for assistance in obtaining technical reports.
Patents A patent is an agreement with a government granting a person or organization ownership of a design or process for a designated period of time within that country.

Most industrialized countries award patents, but they don't recognize patents from other countries.

Patents usually include drawings and descriptive text.
Patents are indexed by disciplinary indexing services and by online databases devoted entirely to patents.

Patent documents are available for sale by the United States Patent and Trademark Office and through document delivery services. Full text of U.S. and other patents can also be read online through SciFinder Scholar.

See a librarian for assistance in obtaining patent documents.
Journal Articles Journals are publications that are issued on a regular schedule and that present detailed reports of current research in a particular field.

Some journals cover research in all areas of science and technology, while others concentrate on a narrow subject area.

The importance of science journals lies in their social, archival and dissemination roles in scientific communication.

All articles submitted to scholarly scientific journals are subjected to a peer review process which helps to maintain the quality of the scientific literature.
Citations to articles published in scientific journals are located using print or online indexing and abstracting services.

Journals are available by subscription from the publisher. An increasing number of journals are now available in electronic format.