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Introduction to the Scientific/Medical Literature: Publication and Access Cycle of Scientific Literature

Publication and Access Cycle

This table shows the developmental pattern and sequence that health sciences literature typically follows and the tools we can use to access that literature at each step of the process.

Knowledge Cycle

Publication Cycle

Access Cycle

Develop and discuss idea Lab notebooks, research diaries, emails, grant proposals Limited public access (invisible college, grey literature)
Present preliminary research Conference papers, proceedings, preprints Specialized indexes, abstracts in journals, conference Web sites
Report research Technical reports, dissertations, theses, research reports Dissertation abstracts, professional association Web sites
Publish research Scholarly journal articles Citation indexes and full text databases (e.g. MEDLINE, CINAHL, PyscInfo, Science Citation Index)
Popularize Popular magazines, newspapers, Web sites Media outlets
Generalize and formalize Encyclopedias, textbooks, clinical tools (e.g. UpToDate, First Consult) Library catalogs, bibliographies, subscription databases

Research literature begins with an idea. A researcher may be curious about an aspect of her discipline or perhaps a clinician encounters a challenge in practice. Initial recorded documentation about the researcher’s investigation of the topic may appear only in lab journals or email correspondence. For this reason, preliminary research is the most difficult to locate. Documentation may appear in what is known as the “grey literature” or “invisible college”. Such literature is not uniformly indexed, so it is difficult to find. This type of literature may consist of conference papers, abstracts, newsletters, or internal reports.

You’ll notice from the illustration below that research tends to follow a sequential process during the publication and access cycle. However, the influence of media and technology has somewhat altered the typical pattern of information distribution. The research presented for academic scrutiny in a scholarly, peer-reviewed journal might also become simultaneously available in the popular media.

Eventually key research findings gain acceptance within the scientific community and are recognized globally. At this point the research becomes fully integrated in encyclopedias, textbooks, and clinical tools.

Acknowledgment:

Table and text used with permission from the Evidence-Based Practice in the Health Sciences: Evidence-Based Dentistry Tutorial created by the Information Services Department of the Library of the Health Sciences-Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago. http://gollum.lib.uic.edu/dentistry/node/31

Publication and Access Cycle

Image Source:

Evidence-Based Practice in the Health Sciences: Evidence-Based Dentistry Tutorial created by the Information Services Department of the Library of the Health Sciences-Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago. http://gollum.lib.uic.edu/dentistry/node/31 

Adapted with permission from: Green, C, Carey, P. Scientific Publication Cycle [image]. Seattle, WA: University of Washington Libraries, 1999 [cited 2006 Dec 11]. Available from: http://www.lib.washington.edu/subject/environment/imt220/pubcycle.jpg