Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Portraying Scientific Research - Primary and Secondary Sources

Deron Caplan
EVNS 1020 Fall 2010

Researchers at the Agricultural Research Service, Ilenys Pérez-Díaz and her colleagues, have discovered that a by-product of cucumber pickling has the potential to break down exes dyes produced in the textile industry. A species of bacteria called Lactobacilli that are often found during the pickling process of cucumbers have been found to modify and render non mutagenic harmful azo dyes in the wastewater of textile production facilities. The primary research paper focuses on the process of the production of Lactobacilli and the feasibility of using it commercially to reduce pollution. Durham's article disregards the feasibilityof the idea and writes about how these bacteria will benefit the textile industry and the environment. This research paper will be compared to a secondary source article written about the findings. The two articles compared are entitled: "Lactobacilli and Tartrazine as Causative Agents of Red-Color Spoilage in Cucumber Pickle Products", the primary source article, by I.M. Pérez-Díaz, R.E. Kelling, S. Hale, F. Breidt and R.F. McFeeters and "Pickle Spoilage Bacteria May Help Environment", the secondary source article, by Sharon Durham. In this blog the fundamental differences between the two mediums of presenting the research will be discussed.

One of the crucial differences between the primary and the secondary source articles is how certain each author/group of authors appear to be about the usefulness of the study's findings. A primary source article is written by someone who preformed or witnessed the research first hand, while a secondary source article presents a second hand presentation of the original findings. It would be expected that an author writing about his or her own work would be more optimistic in the strength of their claims, but in this paper it is not the case. Oddly the author of the secondary source article seems to be certain that the findings will have real world utilities, this optimism is seen when Durham writes: "Spoilage bacteria that can cause red coloration of pickles' skin during fermentation may actually help clean up dyes in textile industry wastewater" (Durham, Sharon 2010). She shows her hopefulness for the project. In the primary source work, no such feelings are seen because in a scientific paper there is no room for opinion and the authors cannot use their paper to convey personal optimism.

Both articles are meant to attract the attention of a particular audience, the fact that the target audiences are so dissimilar makes the two articles fundamentally different. The secondary article is targeted towards the general public and is written for readers who want a brief overview of the results of the study and not have to sort through the seemingly encrypted data of the primary source article. The original work is targeted towards the scientific community, one that only accepts experimentally proven findings, so it is mainly a representation of the purely scientific research that has been done. This allows the reader to draw their own conclusions rather than being fed them as is in the secondary article.

Each work deals with the limitations of the study in a different way. The authors of the primary source article do not omit the possibility that their work will not have any practical use. This can be seen in the discussion section of their article when they write: " The observation that lactobacilli utilize an azo dye is interesting in that removal of azo dyes from waste-water streams is a problem in the textile industry. Considerable effort has been made to identify microorganisms capable of degrading azo dyes in these waste streams. If food grade lactobacilli could be identified that could degrade a range of these dyes, they might be organisms of choice for waste treatment applications "(Pérez-Díaz et all. 2007). This passage is the only one in the entire 6 page article that discusses the possible use of lactobacilli to treat wastewater. The topic is hardly discussed and no overly optimistic language is used, giving the reader the impression there is little hope for this utilization of the bacteria in this way. Durham's secondary interpretation is based solely on this 4 line excerpt, expanding and developing it to make the reader feel confident in the scientist's work.

When all these differences are analyzed it is clear that the way a scientific study is presented can dramatically change the way a reader responds to it. Both the primary and secondary source interpretations have their only individual applications and audiences and are no means are they to be considered the same.

Works Cited

Durham, Sharon. "Pickle Spoilage Bacteria May Help Environment / September 17, 2010 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service." ARS : Home. 17 Sept. 2010. Web. 20 Sept. 2010. .

Pérez-Díaz, I. M., R. E. Kelling, S. Hale, F. Breidt, and R. F. McFeeters. "Lactobacilli and Tartrazine as Causative Agents of Red-Color Spoilage in Cucumber Pickle Products - Pérez-Díaz - 2007 - Journal of Food Science." Wiley Online Library. 14 Aug. 2007. Web. 20 Sept. 2010. .


  1. Love the title man, looks like a lot work went into it

  2. I don't think it is true that scientists are not supposed to give their opinion. I think they just have to be clear when they are giving an opinion and when they are not.