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Medical Research Literature: an Overview

A guide to types & hierarchy of medical research sources

About Medical Literature

Medical literature is scientific research that appears in journals dedicated to medicine & related disciplines & medical textbooks. It is typically categorized as primary, secondary or tertiary. 

Primary medical literature is original research data gathered & described by scientists or medical professionals. It is evaluated by other scientists or medical professionals (peer reviewed) before it can qualify for publication in a scientific journal. It may also include conference papers, article pre-prints,or preliminary reports, etc.

Secondary medical literature  comprises descriptions, analysis & interpretation of the primary literature by professionals in medicine or related disciplines & may identify areas for new research. Secondary literature sources include different types review articles (see table), abstracting & indexing databases, clinical practice guidelines, etc. 

Tertiary literature, found in medical textbooks for example, represents an overview of key research findings derived from primary & secondary literature & introduces principles and practices within medicine.

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