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BCH 467: Analytical Biochemistry Library Lab

Instructions for finding information from the literature for your lab reports; includes how to format the references in your report in the Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC) citation style.


In this section we'll see the difference between primary and secondary literature, what type of information may be found in each and which resources to use to find this type of literature. 

The Primary Literature for Biochemistry

In biochemistry, the primary literature reports on experimental results and almost always appears in scholarly journals.  

Identifying a primary article is fairly easy, in addition to article reporting on the results of an experiment, the format of the article follows the typical pattern of most of the scientific literature. The article will contain, in this order:

  1. Bibliographic Information plus an Abstract
    Bibliographic information includes the title of the article, authors, journal title and journal volume, pages and date, followed by an abstract or summary of the article.  This format has been used since the mid-20th century; previously, journal articles did not have an abstract and the bibliographic information usually consisted of just the article title and the author names (the journal title, if it appeared at all, was a "running title" in either an upper or bottom corner of the page). 
  2. Introduction and Literature Review
    Explanation of what has been studied and why. In some cases the introduction also includes the literature review in which the authors describe what has been previously published on this topic; in other cases, literature review is placed right after the introduction under its own heading.  
  3. Methodology and Instrumentation
    Description of the experiment's protocol or process; if a specific instrument was used the make/model of the device might also be included.  
  4. Data Presentation
    The experiment's results and the analysis thereof.  Could also include discussion of problems encountered during the experiment and possible solutions. 
  5. Conclusions
    Summary of what was discovered and what additional studies are needed.
  6. References 
    Previously published literature, mentioned within the article, is listed in the preferred citation style of the journal . 

Examples of primary biochemical literature; note that each is reporting on an experiment and each is outlined as described above: 



To find the primary literature, use the  "Literature Indexes" page listed under  Section 4: Resources.  

The Secondary Literature for Biochemistry

The term "secondary literature" refers to a variety of document types.  For the purposes of this course,  we'll define secondary literature as documents that contain commentary about, or analysis of, the primary literature or documents that summarize the knowledge of a specific topic.   The secondary literature does not present new knowledge, instead it takes existing knowledge (aka the primary literature), determines the relationships and reworks the information into a single, cohesive and understandable document.    

Examples of secondary literature includes encyclopedia articles, handbooks and scholarly review articles: 



To find secondary literature, use the "Background Information" and "Literature Indexes" pages under Section 4: Resources..

Exercise: Primary vs. Secondary Literature

Click on the titles of the following references to view the full text. Answer the following questions about each article:

  • Is the article a primary source (knowlege gained through direct observation) or a secondary source (knowledge gained from other sources) and why?
  • Is the article scholarly or a news item about the industry? 


  1. Ahn, T., Yim, S.K., Choi, H.I., and Yun, C.H. (2001)  Polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis without a stacking gel: use of amino acids as electrolytes.  Anal. Bioch. 291, 300-303
  2. Anon.(Sept 2005) Replacing electrophoresis.  R&D 47.9, 41  
  3. Maddox, J. (1990) Understanding gel electrophoresisNature 345, 381
  4. Meldolesi, J., and Covo, D. (1972)  Composition of cellular membranes in the pancreas of the guinea pig. IV: Polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and amino acid composition of Membrane Proteins.  J. Cell Biol. 55, 1-18
  5. Tran, N.T., Ayed, I., Pallandre, A., and Taverna, M. (2010) Recent innovations in protein separation on microchips by electrophoretic methods: an updateElectrophoresis 31, 147-173



Move on to Section 4: Resources

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