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Health Sciences Research Guide: Evaluate

A guide to library research for students in Health Sciences programs

Sources to Help You Assess the Primary Literature

Anatomy of a Scientific Paper

Scientific papers are organized in a regular format to make it easy for the authors to present their findings and for you to assimilate and assess those findings. A typical scientific paper will be organized by the following sections:

Title/Authorship: The title of the paper, its authors, and the authors' affiliations are identified.

Abstract: A short summary of the study, often including its objective, design, results, and the authors' conclusions in condensed form. Secondary sources, such as abstracting & indexing services like Medline, often make the abstract available for immediate reading. This allows you to evaluate whether or not you would like to obtain the full text. Remember that you must obtain and read the full text if you are to include the study in your paper. Reading the abstract alone is not enough.

Introduction: Introductions often include a review of the relevant literature, the purpose of the study (i.e. what question the study hopes to answer) and how the authors hope the study will contribute to present knowledge about a topic. There will often be an overview of the scientific theory or conceptual models on which the research was based.

Methods: This section describes how the research was structured, the subjects included, data sources and collection methods, and how that data was manipulated and interpreted using statistical models and procedures.

Results: This section should answer the question originally posed in the introduction of the paper.

Conclusions: Includes a summary of the study, including its identified strengths and weaknesses, the authors' interpretations of their results, and a statement about the significance of the study.

References: A listing of all papers or other published research used by the authors in the paper.

 

How to Evaluate Your Results

 

Once you have retrieved search results, evaluate both their quantity and quality.
 
Determine if you have enough high-quality studies to support your paper.
  • Read the abstract to determine if the study seems relevant to your project.
  • For relevant papers obtain the full text of the article to understand the study's design and results.
  • Read the study, evaluate the research methods and results.
  • Make final decisions about which articles to include in your review.
  • Poorly designed or faulty studies may be valuable in that they point to a hole in the evidence and/or highlight an area that needs to be researched further. If you include these in your paper, be sure to discuss your assessment of their quality.

Remember that you must work with the full text of an article in order to make your evaluation. Reading the abstract or a summary of the article in a review article or in the tertiary literature is not enough.

If you do not have immediate access to the article from the database you searched request it through Discovery or from ILLiad.

 

TASK #7

Read and Evaluate

Obain the full text of the articles you wish to include in your paper, either from the Library's collection or interlibrary loan.

Once you have the full text of each article, assess the quality and importance of the research. Use the suggested books to the left as a guide in your assessment.

Some aspects to consider are:

  • The purpose of the study
  • Research design
  • Data collection instruments and procedures
  • Research subjects, including characteristics and selection criteria
  • Data analysis methods
  • Study conclusion
  • Validity of the study


Health Sciences Literature Review Made Easy expands on these aspects and provides a guide for documenting and assessing the literature you have found.

Summary

Once you have finished this step you should have:

  • Identified the articles you will use to write your paper.
  • Retrieved the full text of these articles and assessed their quality and significance.

FIFTH STEP: ORGANIZE & WRITE -->

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