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Topical Guides: Physical Science, Math and Technology Research

Physical Science, Math and Technology Research > 4: Supporting Data, Documents & Artifacts

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4A: Types of Resources

Data (such as facts or statistics), documents, artifacts (objects) and biographical information related to your topic will provide support, evidence or credence to your research thesis or claims. The best source for your project will depend on what type of information you are researching. For example, biographical information provides context to a subject's life. Data and statistics illustrate trends or provide support for ideas. Artifacts provide visual evidence for your findings.

It is important to distinguish between the two basic types of information: primary sources and secondary sources. Primary sources are from the time period you are researching (from the historical context). These sources can include artifacts, statistics, autobiographies or newspapers. Primary sources often form the foundation for a research project. Examples are: your own compilation of statistics, lab experiment results, E-prints, correspondence between researchers, patent records, mathematical formulas or solutions, computer languages, a scholarly article reporting the results of scientific research, etc.

Secondary sources may also form a foundation for research, but more often these sources provide additional support for your ideas. They include Web pages, articles, or contemporary books. The key distinction between primary and secondary sources is that secondary sources interpret primary sources. Textbooks, biographies, and book reviews are good examples of secondary sources.

4B: Examples


Find government data, including a wide range of scientific data.


Find maps, images, data, and more from the U.S. Geological Survey.

eFunda: Engineering Fundamentals

This site bills itself as "the ultimate online reference for engineers." There are six major categories in this reference source that provide useful scientific data: materials, processes, formulas, design center, units/constants, mathematics.

USPTO Web Patent Database

A patent for an invention is the grant of a property right to the inventor. In the United States, patents are issued by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO). Records in the PTO full-text patent database include the inventor's name, patent's title, assignee's name, abstract, full description of the invention, diagrams and drawings, and the claims. The database covers the period from January 1976 to the present in full text and full-page images since 1790. 

4C: How to Find More


Science.gov is a gateway to authoritative selected science information provided by U.S. Government agencies, including research and development results.

Google Book Search

Google Books has electronic (mostly scanned older) full-text books. Most newer books may have limited text available.

Directory of Open Access Books

Similar to the Directory of Open Access Journals, this site specializes in free e-books. Unlike Google Books, this specializes in newer full-text titles.

OSU Library E-Book Collections (OSU Access)

These collections are available through the OSU Libraries. Search the full text of books within these e-book databases.


Search the USPTO Web Patent Database to find out how many patents have been assigned to the Microsoft Corporation.

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Pop Quiz

Which of the following is NOT a primary source?

Correct answer:[NOTE: Score is not recorded]

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