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The Ohio State University

Health Sciences Library

Bioethics and Medical Humanities

Getting Started with Bioethics and Medical Humanities Research

Searching for information about bioethics and medical humanities topics requires a different approach than searching for typical biomedical topics. This guide will help you find and evaluate appropriate resources for your bioethics and medical humanities assignments and projects.

Scholarly Resources in the Humanities

When discussing scholarly resources in any discipline, we can talk about primary, secondary, and tertiary sources. However, these words can take on slightly different meanings across different disciplines.

For example, primary resource materials in the humanities often refer to materials that are from that historical period and are often not formally published. However, primary resources in the sciences note original scientific discoveries and can frequently be found formally published.

There can also be different points of view concerning what are primary and secondary materials amongst scholars. If you are in doubt, it is always a good idea to consult with your professor.

  Type of Source   Examples in the Sciences   Examples in the Humanities


  • Resources that are considered closest to the original event or discovery
  • Peer-reviewed research studies
  • Resources that report new research, studies, or scientific discoveries for the first time
  • Researcher notebooks
  • Materials that report factual data (not interpretative)
  • Papers and procedures from conferences
  • Photographs
  • Letters
  • Artifacts
  • First-person accounts
  • Diaries
  • Oral histories
  • Personal papers


  • Resources that review primary resources or even other secondary materials in order to review, summarize or analyze this information.
  • Meta-analysis
  • Systematic reviews
  • Traditional/narrative literature reviews
  • Popular press review articles
  • Textbooks
  • Historical articles
  • Biographies
  • Bibliographies
  • Indexes


  • Resources that exist to synthesize information elsewhere with the goal of presenting it in a convenient and easily accessible format.
  • May not be considered acceptable as an academic resource.
  • Encyclopedias
  • Charts
  • Dictionaries
  • Abstracts
  • Wikipedia
  • Encyclopedias
  • Charts
  • Dictionaries
  • Wikipedia