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CIED 500 - Research in Education: Primary Sources

Using the library for research for literature reviews and an action research plan.

Primary Sources in Social Sciences

Empirical Articles are primary sources where authors report on the experiments or observations they conducted. Empirical articles include the research's observed and measured data that they derived from an actual experiment, rather than from a theory or belief. 

Use these tips to determine if an article is empirical:

  • Ask yourself: "what did the author actually do?" 
  • Articles that contain an experiment will have a "methods or "methodology" section that explain how the research was conducted
  • These articles usually contain charts, graphs, and statistical data 

Empirical Articles usually follow a set outline called IMRaD

  • Introduction 
  • Methods 
  • Results 


  • Discussion 

Use the IMRaD acronym to skim the article to judge relevancy. Once you are familiar with the outline, go back and read the whole thing. 

Primary Sources: Research Papers and Reports

Review Articles vs Research Papers

Secondary Sources are literature reviews, encyclopedia and handbook articles, and books that summarize research. These articles can help you understand the meaning of research papers and the context of the studies. They can also lead you to important, foundational studies (the studies that everyone researching a particular topic reads).

Review articles discuss several articles, everything that the author feels is important to help you understand the topic. There are no methods or results sections. There can be charts listing studies and their very concise results.

Research articles include a short literature review, methods section, results section (a summary of the data), and the authors' interpretation and conclusion of the results.

sections in research articles