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HLSC 495: Seminar in Health Science: Secondary Sources

Resources for Fox's Seminar in Health Science

Scholarly Articles

Also called: Scholarly Journals, Academic Journals, Peer-Reviewed

Use the following criteria to determine whether an article is scholarly.

Audience Scholars, researchers, professors, students.
Author Professionals, experts in the field. Credentials are listed in the article.
Content Original research.
Length Usually lengthy, often 20-40 pages long.
Citations Many detailed citations.
Refereed Yes; Articles go through a peer-review process where they are critiqued by other experts in the field before they are published.

Identifying Secondary Articles

Here are some ways to identify secondary sources:

Opening matter The title often includes the words "review" "meta-analysis" or "meta-study"
Research Question Secondary sources do not generally pose new research questions; rather, they review previous work or look at previous work in a new way.
Experimental Methods Secondary science will not include unique experimental methods.  A meta-study or analysis will describe the statistical methods used to analyse data.   
Results Secondary science will not include an experiment; thus, it yields no results.  A meta study will describe the results of their analysis.
Conclusions Secondary science will often include a lengthy conclusion or discussion of the body of reviewed work.   
Documentation Secondary science often reviews and cites many, many sources.  Often close to a hundred.


All screenshots from: 

Greig, J., & Lee, M. (2012). A review of nosocomial norovirus outbreaks: infection control

interventions found effective. Epidemiology & Infection, 140(7), 1151-1160.

Opening matter

  • Scan titles and abstracts: Avoid articles that are "reviews," "meta-studies," "meta-analysis," etc.


  • Secondary science is rarely organized like an experimental design;
  • Rather, the review will be broken up into meaningful content sections
  • Expect many citations


  • A meta-study or analysis may provide tables and results like an experiment but the the data is derived from past studies


  • Secondary sources, especially reviews, often cite many works