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Health Information Administration Research Guide

This guide is intended to help students complete research assignments in health information management.

Evaluate Medical Information Carefully

Evaluate health and medical information carefully. 

  • Do be careful to use high quality, reliable sources, because any papers you write or projects you do for coursework will only be as convincing as the evidence you provide.
  • Your experience in finding reliable sources for coursework will help you as a working professional by giving you the knowledge and skills to remain up-to-date and to continue to provide services and care based on the latest research.

As a professional, you will primarily read articles written by professionals in your field. These articles may be written to:

  • Help you do your job better. That is, the author is reporting about a specific technique, new software, new approaches, etc. We can refer to these as technical/trade articles. You will typically find these in magazines and journals or other publications written for people working in a specific profession.
  • Report original research.  That is, the author of the article is describing a study that the author her/himself has conducted. You will typically find these research articles in peer-reviewed scholarly journals or conference proceedings. Peer review is described elsewhere on this web page.

To find articles for professionals in healthcare and related professions, use a scholarly research database designed for those professions such as Pubmed/Medline. Additional useful research databases may be found in other tabs of this guide.

Health information is also published in magazines or other publications/websites for the general public.

  • To distinguish between scholarly journals, technical/trade journals, general interest magazines, and popular magazines, see information elsewhere on this page such as "Scholarly Continuum of Magazines/Journals."
  • To learn more about finding reliable health information, see Evaluating Health Information, provided by the National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health. Websites should be transparent about their sources of health information. In an effort to improve health information on the Internet, the Health on the Net Foundation has a set of honor code principles for websites to follow.
  • Beware when doing internet searches, because so much unreliable information is on the open web. 

For consumers (that is, the general public), their best bet on the open internet is to go to known, trustworthy sites such as:

What are Peer-Reviewed Articles?

Scholarly peer review is a process to assure the quality of articles in a particular discipline or field of study. Work, activities, decision-making, and problem-solving need to be based on high quality evidence.  

In scholarly peer-review, articles are evaluated by other scholars/specialists who are experts in the specialty/topic of the article.

  • The three or four reviewers of each article may recommend that the article be published as is, published after certain revisions, or not published.
  • The "highest" level of peer review is a "double-blind" review in which the authors don't know who has evaluated their papers and the reviewers don't know whose papers they are reviewing. That ensures a fairer process of review.

Journals that use a peer-review process to select which articles they publish are called "peer-reviewed journals" or "refereed journals."

  • In some scholarly journals, every article (except the editorial or introductory essay by an editor) has gone through peer review.
  • Some scholarly journals may have news items, editorials, and other features that are not peer-reviewed and should not be confused with the peer-reviewed content.

Using peer-reviewed scholarly journals helps you base your work and decisions on credible evidence.

How do I know if an article is peer reviewed?

How can I find out if an article is peer-reviewed?

FIRST. Determine if the article is scholarly. Only scholarly articles are likely to be peer-reviewed, so you can automatically eliminate non-scholarly articles from consideration.

SECOND. Although most articles that publish original research and that are found using professional research databases are likely to be peer-reviewed, here are two ways to determine if a journal is peer-reviewed:

  1. Go to the journal's website and look for the process the journal uses for selecting articles. On the journal's website:
    • look for the "About" link or
    • look for "submission guidelines," "author guidelines," "information for authors" or some other similar option. The author area will typically describe how articles are selected for publication. 
    • For example, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) states, "Peer reviewer identities are kept confidential, but author identities are made known to reviewers." Author identities remain anonymous to reviewers for the International Journal of Research and Method in Education: "Authors should prepare and upload two versions of their manuscript. One should be a complete text, while in the second all document information identifying the author should be removed from files to allow them to be sent anonymously to referees." 
  2. Search Cabell's Directories of Publishing Opportunities.

Scholarly Continuum of Magazines/Journals


This table describes the differences between scholarly journals, technical/trade journals, substantial news/general interest magazines, and popular magazines based on the set of criteria in the left column.

These criteria may be used to determine where in the continuum from scholarly to popular a particular periodical (magazine or journal) falls.







 Audience & Purpose


Audience: Specific professional audience of other scholars in the discipline or profession.

Purpose:  Reports or makes available original research or experimentation to the rest of the scholarly world.


Audience: Specific professional audience of people in a particular discipline or profession. 

Purpose:  Helps someone do their job better by reporting on new techniques (but does not report original research). Includes job listings and other news of interest to people in that profession. 


Audience:  Educated audience with interest in the topics (not aimed at a professional group).

Purpose: Provides substantial information to an interested audience.

Audience: General audience.

Purpose: Primarily entertains or persuades.  Hidden agenda may include selling products or services.



Generally have grave, serious formats.


Are attractive in appearance.

Attractive in appearance.

Generally slick & glossy with an attractive format.



Contain graphs and charts to illustrate the articles but usually quite plain in appearance with minimal use of color.


Include photographs, illustrations and graphics to enhance the publication.

Include photographs, illustrations and graphics to enhance the publication.


Contain photographs, illustrations and drawings to enhance their image.




Cite sources with footnotes and/or bibliography.


Articles may not be footnoted or may have few footnotes.

Occasionally cite sources, but this is exception to rule.

Rarely cite sources; Original sources can be obscure.


Written by scholars or researchers in the specialty.



Written by people working in a particular profession.


Written either by the magazine’s staff, a scholar, or free-lance writers.

Written by the publication’s staff or free-lance writers for a broad based audience.





Use terminology, jargon and the language of the discipline covered.  The reader is assumed to have a similar scholarly background.


Use terminology and jargon of the field but are usually less formal in tone.

Use language appropriate for an educated readership. They do not necessarily emphasize a specialty but do assume a certain level of intelligence.

Use simple language in order to meet a minimum education level.  Articles are kept short, with little depth.




Generally published by a professional organization or society.


Published by professional association.

Published by commercial enterprises for profit.

Published for profit.




No advertising or very minimal, selective advertising.


Advertisements are aimed at people in that profession -- including products and services of interest to them.


Carry general advertising.

Carry extensive general advertising.




New England Journal of Medicine

Journal of the Am. Chemical Society

Harvard Business Review

American Biology  Teacher

Chemical  & Engineering News

Scientific American

Psychology Today



Reader's Digest

ENGL201 Scholarly table.

Karl E. Mundt Library/ Dakota State University.

Based on document developed by Purdue University. Undergraduate Library