Flow of Scientific Information
As the diagram indicates:
The next stage is publication in the primary literature
- either as an article in a journal OR
- as a paper in a published conference proceedings;
- these 2 forms of publication are called the primary literarture, since they are the most easily available, yet detailed record of the research.
The next stage is a description of the research in the secondary literature
- for example, abstracts and indexes, or review journals
- which essentially summarize and point at the primary literature very soon after it has appeared;
- the main purpose of this secondary literature is to facilitate access to scientific information soon after it has been published.
The final stage is a description of the research in the tertiary literature
- which also summarizes and points to the primary literature,
- but generally only after it has become widely accepted and believed.
- examples of tertiary literature include: handbooks, encyclopaedias, and textbooks
Note that monographs (also called books) straddle the last two stages. This is because some monographs or books point only to well accepted scientific research, and other monographs point also to scientific research that is still being evaluated.
Adapted with permission from Jackie Stapleton and Leeanne Romane, University of Waterloo Library.