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Public Health (Health Studies): Scientific Information

Resources for students and faculty

Researching Scientific Information

This schematic illustrates the evolution of scientific information from the idea stage through to that idea becoming accepted knowledge. 

Primary, secondary, and tertiary - these terms reflect development of knowledge and can determine where and how you seek information on your topic.

As you begin your research, read the schematic from the bottom up:


  1. read an essay in a subject encyclopedia or handbook
  2. develop an understanding of your topic
  3. make a list of key words and names associated with your topic
  4. examine the bibliography (usually found at the end of an essay or chapter) to identify more reading


  1. use research databases, indexes, and e-journal collections to research your topic (i.e. Academic Search Complete, SciFinder Scholar, Science Direct)
  2. use a catalogue such as Novanet to locate books, government documents, etc.
  3. examine review publications, such as the "Annual Review" collection. A review surveys the most important works of original research published in a specific discipline <


  1. journal literature will be your main, but not only, source of primary literature. Scientific articles detail the results of reseach with an introduction, methodology, discussion, and results 
  2. if you're questioning if a source is primary, ask yourself if it's an eyewitness account of research or event; written by a key scholar of the subject matter; a report of an experiment, etc.
  3. use the article's bibliography to develop your resources
  4. use citation analysis, indicating the use of another researcher's work in bibliographies, to develop your resources (i.e. Google Scholar) 

How Information Evolves