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Health, Environment, Science and Technology Reporting: Home

Resources to help do research in the fields of health, environment, science, and technology.

How to Use This Guide

This guide is designed to help students in JRN 525 find resources needed to do their research.

Navigate through the guide using the tabs above.

Understanding Materials Used in Science Research

Scholarly / Academic Journals

A periodical devoted to disseminating original research and commentary on current developments in a specific discipline, subdiscipline, or field of study (example: Journal of Clinical Epidemiology), usually published in quarterly, bimonthly, or monthly issues sold by subscription (click here to see an example). Journal articles are usually written by the person (or persons) who conducted the research. Longer than most magazine articles, they almost always include a bibliography or list of works cited at the end. In journals in the sciences and social sciences, an abstract usually precedes the text of the article, summarizing its content. Most scholarly journals are peer-reviewed.

Peer-reviewed / Refereed Articles

Said of a scholarly journal that requires an article to be subjected to a process of critical evaluation by one or more experts on the subject, known as referees, responsible for determining if the subject of the article falls within the scope of the publication and for evaluating originality, quality of research, clarity of presentation, etc. Changes may be suggested to the author(s) before an article is finally accepted for publication. Synonymous with juried and refereed.

Definitions above from Online Dictionary for Library and Information Science (ODLIS).

Review Articles

Review articles are an attempt by one or more writers to sum up the current state of the research on a particular topic. Ideally, the writer searches for everything relevant to the topic, and then sorts it all out into a coherent view of the “state of the art” as it now stands. Review Articles will teach you about:

  • the main people working in a field
  • recent major advances and discoveries
  • significant gaps in the research
  • current debates
  • ideas of where research might go next

Review Articles are virtual gold mines if you want to find out what the key articles are for a given topic. If you read and thoroughly digest a good review article, you should be able to “talk the talk” about a given topic. Unlike research articles, review articles are good places to get a basic idea about a topic.

Definition from the University of Texas Libraries.

Primary Literature

In the sciences, the primary literature presents or comments upon the immediate results of research activities. It often includes analyses of data collected in the field or the laboratory. It is very current and specialized. Examples of primary literature in the sciences include:

  • primary research articles in peer-reviewed journals
  • dissertations and theses
  • technical reports
  • conference proceedings

Secondary Literature

The secondary literature summarizes and synthesizes the primary literature. It is bothbroader and less current than the primary literature. Since most information sources in the secondary literature contain exhaustive bibliographies, they can be useful for finding more information on a particular topic. Examples of secondary literature in the sciences include:

  • monographs (books dealing with a specific area of research in the sciences)
  • literature reviews (or review articles)

Tertiary Literature

The tertiary literature deals with broad, discipline-level topics in the sciences (like biochemistry or evolution) and can be a useful starting point when looking for background information on a research topic. The tertiary literature primarily reports very well-established facts in the scientific literature. Examples of tertiary literature in the sciences include:

  • encyclopedias
  • textbooks
  • handbooks

Definitions of primary, secondary and tertiary literature from the Marian Koshland Bioscience & Natural Resources Library at UC Berkeley.

Image from Carleton University Library. See box below for a more detailed example.

Scientific Cycle of Information

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