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Advanced Health Sciences Research

This guide is designed to assist Nursing and Health Sciences students with research projects.

Sources of Information

Understanding the nature and variety of content in various types of publications will help you determine the best sources for your research.


Reference resources including encycolopedias and dictionaries are useful for concise overviews or definitions of health and medical information.


General encyclopedias are good places to start when researching a topic because they provide a concise summary of people, places, things, and events. There are all sorts of subject specific encyclopedias as well. Articles in encyclopedias often include useful bibliographies.

Examples: Canadian Encyclopedia, Encyclopedia of Aging


There are all sorts of subject specific dictionaries such as legal dictionaries, medical dictionaries, etc. Depending on your topic or field of study, consult the appropriate dictionary to help you understand the technical terminology you come across in the literature.

Examples: The Dictionary of Art, Dorland’s Illustrated Medical Dictionary



Also referred to as monographs, books may be written by one or more authors who are usually experts on the topic. Books provide comprehensive coverage of a subject. Books provide tables of contents and indexes that can help narrow your interest, and also contain bibliographies that can lead you to other useful sources that you may want to consult for your research.


Articles often contain the most current information. 5 types of articles commonly appear in Humber Libraries databases:

Magazine articles are also written by non-experts and help you keep current with public interests. They provide a bit more in depth coverage than a newspaper, and can sometimes provide the authors or titles of recent research publications (ie. Macleans).

Journal articles are written by professionals or interested parties with advanced knowledge of a particular topic, and appear in journal publications that are devoted to a specific subject ( ie. Registered Nurse Journal).

Peer reviewed journal articles are written by subject experts and must be reviewed by other peer experts before being published, to ensure that they are academically sound (ie. Nursing Science Quarterly).

Trade Newsletter articles are written about a profession (ie. Nursing) or industry (ie. health care) and are useful for keeping current with professional trends and contacts (ie. AORN Connections).

Newspaper articles are written by journalists and give the current state of affairs on a specific topic. They are written for a general, non-expert audience, and can be helpful for getting a public point of view on your topic (ie. Globe and Mail).

Magazine and Journal articles are often confused. The table below outlines some key differences between both sources of information.
Magazine Article Journal Article
Topic General or current interest Detailed examination of professional interest

Non-professional journalist or freelancewriter

Professional, topical expert
(qualifications required)
Purpose To inform or entertain To keep scholars current with new research
Audience General public    Professional or special interest groups
Example Maclean's Nursing Science Quarterly

Primary (Original Research) Literature Sources

Primary literature includes documents written at the time of a study, and present the information or raw data resulting from original research conducted by the authors.

  • Notable examples are journal articles that provide original reports of research.
  • Look for these headings when identifying primary literature: A primary research article will typically contain a materials and methods section, a results section (often featuring charts, diagrams, and data tables), and a conclusion or discussion section.

Article segments from:
Livshits, A., Rappaport, Z.H., Livshits, V., & Gepstein, R. (2002). Surgical treatment of painful spasticity after spinal cord injury. Spinal Cord, 40, 161-166.

Secondary Literature Sources

Secondary Sources are documents that analyze, interpret, discuss or evaluate existing research.

  • Secondary sources are often broad in topic, and will incorporate the works of many other researchers in a single article.
  • Examples include journal articles that review primary sources, or the literature written on a topic: systematic reviews, meta-analysis articles, commentary/opinion articles.
  • Secondary (review) articles will seldom contain a materials and methods section as original research is not presented.

Evaluating Information

Use the CRAAP Test method to determine if a web resource is right for you. Evaluate sources based on the following points:
CRAAP MethodCRAAP Method

  • Currency: When was the information published? Is it up to date?
  • Relevance: Is the information what you're really looking for? Who is the material written for: academics, professionals, students, or the general public?
  • Authority: Who published, wrote, or edited the information? Is the author an expert on the topic?
  • Accuracy: Is the information reliable and accurate? Do other sources verify this information?
  • Purpose: What is the purpose of the information? Is it biased to one point of view?