It is important to have a strategy when you begin your search for information. Start with the general and close in later on the specific. This will help you to understand what you are reading.
- Distill your topic down to a few search words, including singluars and plurals, alternative words.
- Read about your topic in books, electronic medical texts, specialized encyclopedias and reliable web sites to get background information. (Find great resources for this under the Background Reading tabs on this page).
- Search the scientific literature using a databse such as PubMed. Look for Review Articles. These will summarize the research for you and help you get in-depth background.
- After you have read some reviews, search PubMed again for primary research articles or use references to the primary research from your review articles.
Primary versus Secondary Literature
Research tip: Read secondary literature to get background before you get into the primary literature.
Secondary Literature summarizes the findings or conclusions of many different primary literature papers. Examples include news articles, books, and review articles in scientific journals.
Primary Literature is the first published reports of findings from experiments or studies by the scientists who did the work. These are scientific articles published in scientific journals and they include the following sections: introduction, materials & methods, results (with tables of data or graphs or images), and discussion.