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Key learning points

In this section, you will learn about:

  • scholarly resources
  • the differences between the Library Collection and library databases
  • terminologies that are commonly used in health-related subjects


Watch the video [2m20s] to learn about scholarly sources.

  • Often you will be asked to use scholarly, academic, or peer-reviewed sources in your assignment.
  • Scholarly sources (also called academic sources) can include journal articles, books, conference papers, and theses.
  • Sources such as Wikipedia, newspapers, magazines, trade journals, newsletters, blogs, social media and personal websites are called popular sources.
  • A scholarly source:
    • is written by researchers within a subject area,
    • reports on research findings,
    • contains comprehensive in-text citations and a reference list or bibliography,
    • uses specialised terminology and a formal writing style, and
    • is often peer-reviewed or refereed.
  • A peer-reviewed or refereed journal article is assessed by experts within the field before it is published.
  • Peer-reviewed journal articles should include:
    • author details including affiliations with organisations,
    • an abstract which summarises the article,
    • evidence of research findings, and
    • in-text citations and a reference list.
  • When searching in the Library Collection or databases, you can filter for scholarly, academic, or peer-reviewed resources.
  • Books can also be scholarly. A scholarly book:
    • is written by an expert,
    • is published by a reputable publisher,
    • has a table of contents,
    • provides in depth subject information,
    • includes an index of terms, and
    • has in-text citations and a reference list.

Commonly used terms in health sciences

Term Definition
Evidence-based practice (EBP) EBP is the integration of individual expertise and best available clinical evidence. It follows a rigorous structure of asking an answerable question, searching systematically for best evidence, critically appraising the evidence, applying the evidence to patient care, and evaluating the process (BMJ 1996).
Grey literature

Unpublished electronic or print evidence produced by all levels of government, academia, business and industry. For example, Clinical Programs and Practice Guidelines (SA Health 2020).

PICO / PIO / PICOT The typical framework for breaking down an intervention-based research question. Stands for population, intervention, comparison, outcome. 
Search strategy A search strategy is a combination of key terms used to search in a database or the Library Collection. It combines key concepts and relevant keywords (and sometimes subject headings) in a strategic manner to retrieve the most relevant results.
Subject headings 
(e.g. MeSH / EmTree)
Subject headings are a thesaurus that provides controlled and hierarchically-organized vocabularies, which are utilised for more comprehensive literature searching.
Systematic reviews "A systematic review is a review of a clearly formulated question that uses systematic and explicit methods to identify, select, and critically appraise relevant research, and to collect and analyse data from the studies that are included in the review" -- PRISMA statement

Library Collection vs. Database

What is the Library Collection?

UniSA Library Collection contains books, peer-reviewed journal articles, magazines, newspapers, videos and more. Note: not all resources in the Library Collection are peer-reviewed or scholarly.

Searching the Library Collection allows you to quickly find items in the physical collection as well as electronic resources such as journal articles.

What is a Library database?

Databases are library subscribed repositories that allow you to efficiently search for academic resources. Library databases can be multidisciplinary (Scopus) or discipline-specific (Ovid MEDLINE - a Health database).

Searching different library databases will help you find the most current and subject-specific information, especially scholarly books and peer-reviewed journal articles.

Note: Searching in the Library Collection or databases is different from searching in Google. It often requires more strategic searching techniques by combining specific keywords, synonyms, phrases and sometimes using a thesaurus (subject headings).


To find out more about how to develop a search strategy, go to the Plan your search tab in this guide.

Learn more