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Getting started with academic research in health and medicine

Introduction to academic research

Research process

Academic research is is a multi-step process that doesn't always go in a straight line; you may find yourself returning to previous stages as you refine your topic. Steps include

Information sources

We recommend you become familiar with the types of sources required for your research project:

At any stage during the research process, you can get help from a librarian by using the Ask a Librarian chat and email service, emailing or phoning a librarian or in person at one of the reference desks.


Databases listed here are good general-purpose databases for health and medicine research. See the subject guides for lists of recommended, discipline-specific databases, plus contact information for that subject librarian.

World Book Advanced Encyclopedia

    World Book
This resource is restricted to Virginia Tech users only Contents of this resource available through Summon

World Book Advanced Encyclopedia

The World Book Advanced Encyclopedia provides HTML full-text reference articles, ebooks, literary criticism, U.S. Supreme Court cases, U.S. presidential papers, special reports, research guides, timelines, maps, images, and multimedia in all academic disciplines.  

Full record

Use this encyclopedia for background research on a topic, to refine or narrow a research topic, and confirm terminology (that you'll also use in subject-specific databases).

LexisNexis Academic

    LexisNexis
This resource is restricted to Virginia Tech users only Screencast tutorials available for this resource Contents of this resource available through Summon

LexisNexis Academic

LexisNexis Academic is a collection of hundreds of databases covering topics such as news, business, legal research, people, and company information. The default start search form uses the Easy Search method in the General search tab. Select Power Search for more advanced search options. Use the Sources link to choose from individual databases. All content is full text in HTML. News sources 1977-present; legal source 1789-present.   

Full record

Use LexisNexis Academic to find recent news articles on medical topics and to find people working in a research area. Newspaper articles will be written for a popular audience, which will provide a general understanding of a research topic before you move on to scholarly articles.

Opposing Viewpoints In Context from Gale

    Gale Opposong Viewpoints
This resource is restricted to Virginia Tech users only Contents of this resource available through Summon

Opposing Viewpoint Resource Center from Gale

Opposing Viewpoints offers over 14,000 pro/con viewpoint essays on controversial topics and current events, plus thousands of topic overviews, primary source documents, biographies of social activists, court case overviews, related full-text periodical articles, statistical tables, and multimedia content.  

Full record

Use Opposing Viewpoints when researching controversial medical topics or ethical aspects of those topics. The reference citations listed with each essay will provide a starting point for more in-depth research.

Academic Search Complete from EBSCOhost

    EBSCOhost interface
This resource is restricted to Virginia Tech users only Sponsored by VIVA, the Virtual Library of Virginia This resource provides a mobile interface; see description for link Screencast tutorials available for this resource database provides Get VText links

Academic Search Complete from EBSCOhost

Academic Search Complete indexes citations, abstracts, and full text from journal articles, books, reports, and conference proceedings in all subject disciplines. Full text provided in PDF and HTML. Searchable cited references are provided for nearly 1,000 journals. Searches can be limited to peer reviewed sources. Indexing 1887-present, most content 1980s-present.  

Full record

Academic Search Complete provides articles from both popular sources like magazines and newspapers that will give a general overview of a topic, and from scholarly sources that will go into much more depth. Use this database for general research into any medical topic.

Annual Reviews

    Annual Reviews
This resource is restricted to Virginia Tech users only Sponsored by VIVA, the Virtual Library of Virginia Contents of this resource available through Summon database provides Get VText links

Annual Reviews

Annual Reviews publishes comprehensive, critical, primary-literature reviews (HTML and PDF) for 40 scientific disciplines within the biological and medical, engineering and physical, and social sciences including economics. It is a useful starting point for upper level research because it synthesizes the vast amount of primary research literature and identifies the principal contributions in each field. 1939-present.  

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Review articles (also available from many other databases) are a great starting point for advanced research on a medical topic, because they digest the current state of knowledge. The references listed with each summary article will also serve as a starting point for further research.

PubMed/MEDLINE from the NLM

    National Library of Medicine
This resource is freely accessible This resource provides a mobile interface; see description for link Screencast tutorials available for this resource Contents of this resource available through Summon database provides Get VText links

PubMed/MEDLINE from the NLM

PubMed indexes citations, abstracts, and some full text for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books in the life sciences, including the fields of medicine, nursing, dentistry, veterinary medicine, the health care system, and preclinical sciences. Advanced search limits include types of articles (such as clinical trial, case reports, or review), human or animal studies, and age of subjects. Full text provided as HTML and PDF. 1947-present.  

Full record

Use the Limits option and choose option under Type of Article such as Review, Case Reports, Comparative Study, Guideline, or Interview to view summaries or introductory articles before searching for more in-depth articles.

Science Citation Index from Thomson Reuters Web of Knowledge

    ISI Web of Science
This resource is restricted to Virginia Tech users only Screencast tutorials available for this resource Contents of this resource available through Summon database provides Get VText links

Science Citation Index from Thomson Web of Science

Science Citation Index, a subset of Web of Science, indexes citations, abstracts, and some full text from journal articles, books, and conference proceedings in all science disciplines. You can search cited references. 1975-present (older data available in print).   

Full record

Science Citation Index is a comprehensive science and medicine database, covering hundreds of scholarly journals. Its features that analyze sets of citations is a vital step in advanced research.



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2013-2014 Student Research Guide (PDF | 8MB)

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