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Optometry Resources: Finding Primary Research

This library guide serves as the Martin and Gail Press Health Professions Division Library portal for the College of Optometry, directing faculty and students to the most helpful library resources and services for their academic program.

Primary Sources

What is a primary source?

•  A first-hand report of an original study, experiment, or event

•  Written by the person(s) who conducted the study/experiment or witnessed the event

•  Can be quantitative or qualitative in nature

When researcher interviews patients about their health behaviors, a pharmaceutical company conducts clinical trials on a new drug, or a hospital surveys its nursing staff, they are creating primary information.

An original research article should consist of the following headings: Structured abstract, introduction, methods, results, and discussion (IMRAD) and may be Randomized Control Trial (RCT), Controlled Clinical Trial (CCT), Experiment, Survey, and Case-control or Cohort study.

Sample article:

         Gunasekeera,V., Mendall, M. , Chan, D., Kumar, D., & Mendall., M. A. (2016). Treatment of Crohn's disease with an IgG4-guided exclusion diet: A randomized control trial. Digestive Diseases & Sciences, 61(4), 1148-1157. doi:101007/s10620-0153987-z

Primary Research in CINAHL

In CINAHL like other EBSCO databases you can filter your results by scrolling down to the Limit Your Results section of the Advanced Search screen. There is no PRIMARY article filter but within CINAHL there are multiple filter you can use:


RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIALS CHECKBOX: This will filter your results to randomized controlled trials research articles only.


RESEARCH ARTICLE CHECKBOX: This will filter your results for research articles, both quantitative and qualitative.  However, BOTH primary AND secondary research articles will be retrieved, so you will need to examine your results carefully.


PUBLICATION TYPE: Try Clinical Trial, Randomized Controlled Trial, or another publication type appropriate for the studies you need.


CLINICAL QUERIES: Choose the appropriate focus area for your question (TherapyPrognosisReviewQualitative, or Causation) and desired scope (High Sensitivity=more articles/some less relevant, High Specificity=fewer articles/higher relevance, or Best Balance).  Again, BOTH primary AND secondary research articles will be retrieved, so you will need to examine your results carefully.


Try using each of these options separately.  These will work with keyword searches as well as subject searches.  If you are looking for a very specific type of study, try including the study type as a keyword instead of using limiters.

Primary Research in the TRIP Database

The TRIP Pro is a clinical research engine designed to allow clinicians to quickly find answers to their clinical questions using the best available evidence. After typing in your search, you may apply filters from the right sidebar. TRIP does have a filter for PRIMARY RESEARCH and  KEY PRIMARY RESEARCH and CONTROL TRIALS. 

Primary Vs. Secondary Research

Primary Research in MEDLINE (EBSCO)

In Medline (EBSCO) there are a couple of recommended filters from the Limit Your Results section :


PUBLICATION TYPE: Try Clinical TrialControlled Clinical TrialRandomized Controlled Trial, or another publication type appropriate for the studies you need.


CLINICAL QUERIES: Choose the appropriate focus area for your question (TherapyDiagnosisPrognosisReviewsClinical Prediction GuidesQualitativeCausation, Costs or Economics) and desired scope (High Sensitivity=more articles/some less relevant, High Specificity=fewer articles/higher relevance, or Best Balance).  Again, BOTH primary AND secondary research articles will be retrieved, so you will need to examine your results carefully.


Try using these options separately.  These will work with keyword searches as well as subject searches.  If you are looking for a very specific type of study, try including the study type as a keyword instead of using limiters.

Primary Research in PubMed

In PubMed filter your results by using the options on the left sidebar.  Click on one or more filters to include those attributes. There is no filter for PRIMARY articles but you can filter your results by article type. 


ARTICLE TYPE: Try Clinical Trial, Randomized Controlled Trial, or another type of study appropriate for you need. If you do not see the type of article you need click on the  Customize link to see more options and add them as a category.