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UNIV 150 Foundations of Science: Home

This guide is for the UNIV 150 Foundations of Science class. It provides information and links to guides and other resources to help support what is covered during the library session.

Topics Covered in Class

Disciplines use sources differently, so what may be a primary source for a researcher in the humanities might be different than a primary source for a researcher in the sciences.

Primary sources provide information that is:

  • created during the time being studied 
  • first-hand perspective, or direct personal knowledge
  • original source of information

The main types of primary sources in the sciences include:

  • studies or experiments that provide new data, results, and theories

Secondary sources are second-hand information that comments on, interprets, evaluates, or discusses primary sources.

Some sources can be primary OR secondary, depending on the context. 

Examples of Primary and Secondary Sources in the Sciences

Primary Sources Secondary Sources
  • original research articles
  • conference proceedings
  • dissertations/theses
  • reports
  • data
  • government documents
  • scholarly review articles
  • news & magazine articles
  • trade journal articles
  • books
  • government documents
  • blogs, social media, etc.

For More Information

Peer-reviewed sources (especially original research journal articles) are the main way that scholars share the results of their research with others in their field. Before they publish, these sources go through a multi-step process involving research, writing, peer-review, and revision. 

See our Peer Reviewed Publications guide for a list of of the steps in and a diagram of the process.

Also see our guide on Finding and Identifying Original Research Articles in the Sciences (original research articles in the sciences are peer-reviewed).

In class, we discussed the following things to consider when evaluating a source:

Stop and Slow Down.

  • Ask yourself what you already know about the source and claim.
  • Take note of any reactions (e.g. feeling a strong emotion) you have to the information.

Finding Information, Information Finding You, and Filter Bubbles

  • How did you come across the information? Did you look for it (and where/how did you search)? Did it find you? (e.g. personalized ads, feeds, and search results)
  • For more on filter bubbles, check out this TED Talk by Eli Pariser.

Investigate the Source and Claim

When investigating a source, consider the:

  • Process (e.g. editing and/or peer-review)
  • Expertise (degree or expertise of the author)
  • Aim (what is the author's purpose - who was it written by and for, and why was it written?

Also, go beyond the About us page and investigate outside the source:

  • What do others say about the source?
  • Does it have a Wikipedia page?
  • Do other trusted sources say anything about it?

When investigating the source, consider:

  • Is the source supported by outside, reputable sources?

Consider the Context

  • How does the source fit within the context of other sources on the same topic?
  • What do you need the information for?
  • What is the original context? -- Trace claims, quotes, data, and more back to the original source/context.

The tips for evaluating sources shared in class and above were adapted from the following sources:

Other Guides and Videos to Learn More

In-Class Activities

Let us know how you are feeling after your first week of classes! Submit responses below (or go to form here.)

In pairs, review each of the following three documents and determine whether each is a primary or secondary source. Be prepared to share your answers (and the reason for your answers) with the class.

Document 1

"Local climatic changes affect biodiversity responses to land use: A review"

Document 2

"Gene expression profiling of the green seed problem in soybean"

Document 3

"Earth breaks September heat record, may reach warmest year."

Enter your responses on the Primary or Secondary? Part 1 Response Form 

From the NDSU Library website, use the database Academic Search Complete to find a science source that is of interest to you for this course. Once you've found a source, go to the Google Form linked below and answer the questions.

Find a Science Source Using Academic Search Premier Activity and Response Form

In pairs or small groups, you will evaluate a set of eight different sources and determine whether each is (a) primary or secondary, (b) 'good' and 'reliable', and (c) examples to support your decision. Be prepared to discuss with the class.

Start and complete the activity using this Google Form.

Find the original source article that is being discussed in the following news article

News article from Reuters:

Fossil of previously unknown four-legged whale found in Egypt

Provide your answers on this Google Form

Link to Academic Search Complete Database

Agricultural Sciences Librarian

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Nicole Juve
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