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WHSL Information Sources in the Health Sciences: Using Primary Sources

Guides you through the various types of information sources and their use

Types of Primary Sources

  • Books
  • Journal articles
  • Conference proceedings

When to Use Primary Sources

  • Books are used when you need background information on a topic
    • Books, especially textbooks, are used typically when you are still inexperienced and need to learn about a new subject
    • Sometimes only one or two chapters in a book are relevant to your needs
    • Books take time to write and edit, so they may not be as up to date as possible
    • Books may be in paper format or in electronic format 
  • Journal articles are used when you need more specific information about a subject
    • Journal articles are used when you are more experienced and already know about the subject in general
    • Journal articles usually deal with one specific aspect of a subject
    • Journal articles are most often used by a specific academic community who are experts in their field
    • Journal articles often contain up-to-date information as they are published more rapidly than books
      • Journal articles may be in paper format or in electronic format 
  • Conference proceedings are reports of research presented at conferences
    • Presentations at conferences often precede publication of research findings in a journal article
    • Conference preceedings are thus often the most up-to-date source of information
      • Conference proceedings may be in paper format or in electronic format