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WRTG 213 - Writing and the Sciences

This course guide was developed specifically for WRTG 213 to provide information about resources for your class projects.

What is Scientific Literature?

Scientific literature comprises scholarly publications that report on researchobserved, experienced, or theoretical—in the natural and social sciences.

Parts of a Scientific Paper

For the most part, a typical peer-reviewed scientific paper includes the following sections:

  • Title: Subject of the paper and what was studied.
  • Abstract: Brief summary, including the reason for the study, the primary results, and the main conclusions.
  • Introduction: General background, and sometimes a brief literature review; why the study was done.
  • Methods and Materials: How the study was performed, including techniques and equipment, so that it can be replicated by others.
  • Results: What happened during the study.
  • Discussion: What the results mean and why they are significant.
  • Conclusion: Summary of the results; may include reasons why further research is needed.
  • List of References (or Bibliography): Provides documentation of the sources consulted for the study.

What is a Primary Source in the Sciences?

Primary sources in the sciences are different than primary sources in the humanities or social sciences. 

In the sciences, the focus is on the research

  •  Primary sources are written by the scientists who performed the experiments. These articles include original research data. 
  •  Secondary sources summarize or compare previous research in a particular subject area.

So, how can you tell if a scientific article is a primary source?  It's not always clear, so look for clues.


  • Is the article clearly labeled as "Research" or "Review."
  • Read the Abstract to find out if the term "review" is used to describe the study.
  • Check the Introduction and/or Methodology section to see if the author(s) actually conducted the research or if they are only writing/summarizing research conducted by others.

Identifying Primary / Secondary Sources in the Sciences