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Public Health: How to Start You Research

Helpful Resources in Public Health

Research Help

Starting a research project can feel daunting.  Let us help! Call or email library staff to help you identify the best resources for your topic.

Generally speaking, you can think of the research process in two broad categories:

Primary literature is composed of original research studies conducted on in vitro, animal, or human models. Most of the time, original research is published in peer reviewed journals. Conference papers would also be considered original research. Search the journal literature when you are trying to find the latest research on a topic.

The secondary literature provides an analysis or evaluation of an original study or group of studies, summarizing these results in a concise and authoritative manner to provide the best available evidence for a problem. Examples of this type of information would be textbooks or review articles.

You will need to identify and utilize both of these broad categories of information to ensure you have conducted a comprehensive review of the literature.

Primary Information Resources: The Journal Literature

In the sciences, the latest research is often published within a journal article.  Journal articles are usually highly specific - that it, an article represents a very narrow focus of research. If your topic is very specific - such as "Is there any association between autistic spectrum disorder and the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine?" the journal literature is the way to start. If you topic is very broad, like "the state of public health in the United States", or if you don't know a lot about your topic, you probably want to start with a secondary information resource like a book. 

You may also be asked to limit your research to peer reviewed articles. The resources below allow the option to restrict your search to research published in sources that are considered more academically rigorous, otherwise known as a peer reviewed, or refereed journals.

Population Health Added to Special Queries feature of PubMed

The NLM PubMed Special Queries page includes a link to a new MEDLINE/PubMed Population Health search.

A definition for population health is “the health outcomes of a group of individuals, including the distribution of such outcomes within the group. The field of population health includes health outcomes, patterns of health determinants, and policies and interventions that link these to differences between groups of people." 1 The Population Health Special Query is a PubMed search of relevant MeSH headings and text words combined strategically to retrieve PubMed citations. MeSH headings were selected with the assistance of members of the Institute of Medicine Board on Population Health and Public Health.

Currently, the pre-formulated search retrieves over 9,000 PubMed citations to English language literature excluding letters. To focus the retrieval more, see I retrieved too many citations. How can I focus my search? in PubMed Help. Zorn M. Population Health Added to Special Queries. NLM Tech Bull. 2014 Sep-Oct;(400):e5. 2014 September 17 [posted]

Secondary Information Resources: Books

Need background information on a topic or an introductory summary to help you understand key concepts? Conduct an advanced search in DMU Discovery to find both print and ebooks.

Advanced Search

Search for specific subject, like public health, or try other keywords/subjects of interest.  You can limit you search results to ebooks under the "format" menu:

Public Health subject search

Please contact us if you are a distance learner and need access to a print resource. We'll help you get what you need!

Another great summary resource to help you learn more about diseases or conditions is UptoDate. This database is very popular with healthcare professionals and is available from a browser or as an app. Read the library guide to Uptodate to learn more.