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Evaluating Scientific Evidence in Medicine IB 119: Evaluate, Write, Cite, Present


 Reference managers allow you to download citations, collect articles share & manage references, PDFs, data, and documents. Some work with word processing to format citations and footnotes in papers and cre

Cite Your Sources & Manage Your Documents (pdfs).

EndNote (Mac, PC, web-based). Good PDF management and annotation tools. Automatically searches for full-text PDFs (if available). Formats citations and bibliographies. EndNote works with word to format citations, and create bibliographies in many styles. It can be purchased from Software Central or online. tips to enter your citations per index [Endnote X7 Exercises]

Mendeley is a free (up to 2GB) web-based reference manager & can be used as a social network to organize your research, collaborate with others online, and discover current developments. Integrates with Word for citation and bibliography formatting. Includes some social elements that allows for sharing and recommendations.

Papers (Mac) is low-cost software that allows you to search, retrieve, organize, and annotate article PDFs. You can also easily export references into citation management tools like EndNote so that you can use their citation and bibliography formatting features.

RefWorks (Online) is a web-based bibliographic management service licensed by the library for UCB faculty, staff and students. RefWorks can be used independently or as a complement to EndNote. To use, create an account using the RefWorks New User form. Sign up for a RefWorks account. Getting Started with RefWorks

Typesetting language used for scientific document preparation. LaTeX is a program that converts a plain text file into TeX. BibTeX is a tool that can be used with LaTeX to create documents and bibliographies. Tools are free to download. The TeX Users Group (TUG) includes an FAQ, links to software. Endnote has BibTeX bibliographic style to format your citations into TeX.

Plug-in for Firefox and standalone versions for Chrome and Internet Explorer. Automatically extracts metadata from many PDFs and web pages. Permits tagging, notation, and full text searching of your library of resources. Integrates with Word for citation and bibliography formatting, and has a free (but limited) web backup service.Getting Started with Zotero
Note: When using software to automatically format your citations, double-check the formatting for correctness.

Software for Science Reference Management: a web-list of many bibliographic management programs, some are free.

Use the following charts for other programs and more information:
Citation manager comparison chart
Document manager comparison chart

Critical evaluation

What is the breadth of the article, book, website or other material? Is this a general work that provides an overview of the topic or is it specifically focused on only one aspect of your topic. Does the breadth of the work match your own expectations? Does the resource cover the time period that you are interested in?

Who is the intended audience? Is the material too technical or too clinical? Is it too elementary or basic? You are more likely to retrieve articles written for the appropriate audience if you start off in the right index. For instance, to find resources listing the latest statistics on heart disease you may want to avoid the Medline database which will bring up articles designed for practicing clinicians rather than social science researchers.

When was the source published? If it is a website, when was it last updated? Avoid using undated websites. Library catalogs and periodical indexes always indicate the publication date in the bibliographic citation.

Scholarly vs. Popular

A scholarly journal is published by and for experts. In order to be published in a scholarly journal, an article must go through the peer review process in which a group of experts reviews it for content, scholarly soundness and academic value. In most cases, articles in scholarly journals present new, previously un-published research.
Scholarly sources will almost always include:  Bibliography and footnotes and Author's name and academic credentials

Popular magazines range from publications such as Scientific American to news magazines like Newsweek and US News & World Report. Articles in these publications tend to be written by staff writers or freelance journalists and are geared towards a general audience. Articles in popular magazines are more likely to be shorter than those in academic journals. While most magazines adhere to editorial standards, articles do not go through a peer review process and rarely contain bibliographic citations.

Tip: When searching a journal index such as Academic Search Complete, limit your search refereed publications. This will retrieve only scholarly journals matching your search terms.

Your searches in Web of Science will retrieve only scholarly articles since only academic journals are indexed in this database.

Who is the author? What are his or her academic credentials? What else has this author written? Sometimes information about the author is listed somewhere in the article. Other times, you may need to consult another resource to get background information on the author. Sometimes it helps to search the author's name in a general web search engine like Google.

Other Indicators:

Documentation. A bibliography, along with footnotes, indicate that the author has consulted other sources and serves to authenticate the information that he or she is presenting. In websites, expect links or footnotes documenting sources, and referring to additional resources and other viewpoints.

Objectivity. What point of view does the author represent? Is the article an editorial that is trying to argue a position? Is the website sponsored by a company or organization that advocates a certain philosophy? Is the article published in a magazine that has a particular editorial position? Consult these resources which indicate whether a publication is known to be conservative or progressive, or is affiliated with a particular advocacy group:

Primary vs. secondary research. In determining the appropriateness of a resource, it may be helpful to determine whether it is primary research or secondary research.

Primary research presents original research methods or findings for the first time.

  • A journal article, book, or other publication that presents new findings and new theories, usually with the data
  • A newspaper account written by a journalist who was present at the event he or she is describing is a primary source (an eye-witness, first-hand account), and may also be primary "research"

Secondary research does not present new research but rather provides a compilation or evaluation of previously presented material.
-- A scientific article summarizing research or data, such as in Scientific AmericanDiscover, Annual Review of Genetics, or Biological Reviews
-- An encyclopedia entry and entries in most other Reference books
 -- A textbook

An article in a popular magazine such as Mother Jones about the public health aspects of handgun control -- if it relies on interviews with experts and does not present any new research in the area, this article would be secondary research. If one of the experts interviewed in the Mother Jones article published a study in JAMA (The Journal of the American Medical Association) documenting for the first time the effect that handguns have on youth mortality rates, only the JAMA article would be considered primary research.

Websites. While most of the strategies listed above for evaluating information can be applied to any type of resource (books, articles or websites), the unfiltered, free-form nature of the Web provides unique challenges in determining a website's appropriateness as an information source.
When evaluating a website ask yourself:

  • Is there an author of the document? Can you determine the producer's credentials? If you cannot determine the author of the site, then think twice about using it as a resource.
  • Is the site sponsored by a group or organization? If it is sponsored by a group or company, does the group advocate a certain philosophy? Try to find and read "About Us" or similar information.
  • Is there any bias evident in the site? Is the site trying to sell you a product? Ask why the page was put on the web?
  • Is there a date on the website? Is it sufficiently up-to-date? If there is no date, again, think twice about using it. Undated factual or statistical information should never be used.
  • How credible and authentic are the links to other resources? Are the links evaluated or annotated in any way?

For a more detailed checklist of what to look for in a website and how to do it, see Evaluating Web Pages: How and Why.

Reference Sources

Book reviews can appear in a journal, magazine or newspaper -- provides a descriptive, evaluative discussion of a recently published book. Reading how others have evaluated a book may help you decide whether to use that book in your research. There are a number of indexes you can consult that provide references to book reviews:

Journal Indexes.You may find reviews of books in many journal indexes by searching on the title and/or author of the book. Select a general journal index or an index for the subject area of the book.

Citation indexes.
To see the impact a particular source has had on scholarship, you should consult a citation index. A citation index lists when and where a work has been cited. In other words, you could consult a Citation Index to see all the articles that have cited David Ho's research on HIV.

Use Web of Science:
Science Citation Index (1945-present)
Social Sciences Citation Index (1970-present)
Arts & Humanities Citation Index (1975-present)

Managing Your References and Evaluating Your Sources​

NLM: Citing Medicine: The NLM Style Guide for Authors, Editors and Publishers, 2nd edition.

Critical Appraisal of a Journal Article. University College London Institute of Child Health Library, 2011.

Critical Appraisal of Scientific Articles. du Prel JB, Röhrig B, Blettner M. Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2009 February; 106(7): 100–105.

Citing Your Sources and Avoiding Plagiarism [UC Berkeley Libraries] Quick guides to APA, MLA, and Chicago-Turabian styles.