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Michigan State University

NSC 495-Researching your topic in Human Biology: Types of Sources--Empirical or Review

Original Sources

Original Sources:  

Original sources come from their particular time period.  They can be old, or as recent as today's news.  In scholarship we talk about two types:

  1. Empirical sources:  Empirical papers report on a particular study or observations in the laboratory, the field, the clinic.  They report findings and are written by the scientists that did the work.   For instance, if you want the very latest research on current treatment of HIV infection, you would look for recent empirical articles.  
  2. Historical sources:  Historical sources are any source that was written during the time period that the historian or researcher is researching.  For instance, if you want to learn about the history of HIV and AIDS in the United States, you would look for books and articles from the 1980's all the way up to the present to show the changes. 


Review Sources:

Review sources summarize and discuss the research of others or the past.  Good review sources summarize information from many original sources.   For instance, someone writing a history of HIV and AIDS in the United States might publish a book in 2020 using findings from the historical and empirical sources they found from the 1980s up to today. 

Review sources can be textbooks, other kinds of books, review articles, news articles, web sites, and anything that is not an original source.

Health Sciences Coordinator and Biology Librarian

Michigan State University