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4.1 Primary literature

Primary literature is often written by specialists for specialists, so the authors assume that the audience has a high level of understanding of the specific terminology used in the subject area, as well as a good understanding of the subject area itself. Most primary research papers have the following sections (although not necessarily in this order): Title; Authors; Abstract; Introduction; Methods; Results; Discussion; Conclusion; and References. The Title and Abstract sections are typically informative, interesting and to the point, encapsulating the focus of the work. The main point of the Introduction is to establish how the paper fits in with previously reported work, to summarise the main points of the study and highlight the conclusions accurately and effectively. The Methods section is where the author(s) explains what they did to generate the results reported in the rest of the paper. This section is vital because it enables you to deduce whether or not the results are valid in the context of the research question or hypothesis. The Methods section also enables other researchers to repeat the work. It is, generally speaking, the most difficult part of a paper to grasp because of the level of detail involved. In addition to describing what they did in the Methods section, the authors will state what they found in the Results section (including statistical information derived from the analysis of the ‘raw’ data they have generated), and state their interpretation of the findings in the Discussion section. They will often extrapolate and generalise in this section to illustrate the key points they wish to make. The last section before the Reference list is usually a Conclusion, in which the authors state how the results, in their view, relate to the various hypotheses that they have proposed and/or have been previously proposed by others.