Handling Information from evidence searches to citation

Handling information


  • How to search for information
  • How to cite information
  • Reading information.

Searching for information

Different situations require different forms of evidence. For example, you may require:

  • Statistics, e.g. statistics on heart disease in GB
  • Numbers, e.g. number of outlets of pharmacy chains in GB
  • Medical/academic, e.g. information about the treatment of eczema.

Which information resources?

This depends upon what you are researching. You may want to find:

  • Health statistics
  • Studies/trials
  • Journal articles
  • Legal information
  • Government publications
  • Theses
  • Conference proceedings.







Handling information


Always follow the same procedure:

  • Work out exactly what you are researching
  • Formulate your question/hypothesis or theory and write it down
  • Think about parameters.




If working on a set assignment, make sure you understand what is being asked of you:

  • Ask your supervisor
  • Reread seminar/lecture notes for pointers
  • Check your Virtual Learning Environment (e.g. Moodle / Blackboard / Canvas) at University for any additional information posted by your lecturer.

Where to start looking

If you are linked to an academic institution, check their catalogues and speak to a subject librarian.

NHS employees can access journal articles and other resources via their Open Athens account.

If using the RPS Library, search across our two databases:

  1. MEDLINE Complete
  2. Biomedical Reference Collection.

If we don’t have the articles you need, ask us to try to obtain them for you via interlibrary loan.

Search our library catalogue and our e-Library.

For charges, please see our webpage: www.rpharms.com/about-us/library

Where to look

  • Check reference lists and bibliographies in useful books/articles for additional sources of information
  • See the ‘useful websites’ section at the end of this resource for some useful sites for accessing ‘grey’ literature.


Grey Literature Definition

That which is produced on all levels of government, academics, business and industry in print and electronic formats, but which is not controlled by commercial publishers.’

(Fourth International Conference on Grey Literature: New Frontiers in Grey Literature. GreyNet, Grey Literature Network Service. Washington D.C. USA, 4-5 October 1999).

Using our databases to find journal articles

  • Identify keywords
  • Use wildcards, truncation and Boolean Logic when searching
  • Keep a record of how you are constructing the search/limiting the results
  • Keep a record of the results, including search history.




See our webinars and quick reference guide for more information on using RPS Library databases.

Using our databases


  • Choose your keywords
  • Use several and experiment
  • A particular keyword might retrieve many hits on one database and fewer on another.
  • Find synonyms
  • Combine keywords using Boolean Logic (AND, OR, NOT) 
  •  You can limit results by year, age, gender, geography etc.

You have a vague idea of what you are researching

e.g., You want to look at vitamins.

But a simple search on a database returns thousands of results.

e.g., 390,138 results across our databases, using the search term vitamins.

You need to be more specific. You might want to know more about the effect of vitamin supplements on heart health. And you might want to refine the search even further: - Concentrating on one segment of the population – e.g. the elderly.

174 results across our databases using search terms Heart health AND vitamin* AND (effect OR impact OR influence).

18 results across our databases using search terms Heart health AND vitamin* AND (effect OR impact OR influence), and limiting search to 65+ years.

Handling results

Having conducted your literature search, you need to manage results.

Why does it matter? If you don’t take note of what you retrieved and from where, you might be in danger of plagiarism.



Plagiarism is usually the result of bad note-taking.

To avoid plagiarism:

  • Allow yourself enough time
  • Mark which passages/results you have copied from somewhere else and which are your own and include page numbers
  • Write down the full reference now to avoid extra work later.




You can use bibliographic referencing software. If you belong to an academic institution, you will have access to bibliographic management software such as RefWorks and Endnote. If not, you can use software like Mendeley or JabRef; both are free to download from the internet.

In which format should you cite references?

The two popular styles in pharmacy are Harvard and Vancouver

Your academic institution/publisher will tell you which style you need to use and will give examples. (There are usually variations to individual styles across institutions).

If studying at a university, follow the examples given on the library’s webpages exactly, including punctuation.

Otherwise, see 'Useful Websites' below for a selection of useful referencing guides.

Harvard example – journal article (print):

In-text reference: Brazil (2016, p.213) states that ‘…’

Reference list:

Brazil, R., 2016. Professional Associations: adapting to remain relevant in a digital age. The Pharmaceutical Journal, 297, pp.212-215.

(with Harvard, the reference list is ordered alphabetically by author)

Vancouver example – journal article (print):

In-text reference:

As Brazil (1) states ‘…’ (p.213)

Reference list: (1)Brazil, Rachel. Professional Associations: adapting to remain relevant in a digital age. Pharm J. 2016;297:212-215.

With Vancouver, each work has a unique number, according to the order in which it was first cited; for example (1) shows that this article from PJ was the first work cited. (1) will continue to be used if the article is cited again. The reference list is ordered numerically according to when each work first appeared in the text.

Reading your literature

Does the book or article fit your research interest?

  • Look at list of contents or abstract.
  • Was the article peer reviewed?
  • Has the book been reviewed in relevant journals?

Reading a research article

  • Look at the abstract
  • Look at the way the authors designed the study:
    • Is the purpose of the study clear?
    • What is being studied?
    • How have participants been selected and how many are there?
    • How has the study been set up? (i.e. Has an appropriate control group been used?)

Look at results:


  • How were results analysed?
  • Was a good description of analytical processes provided?
  • Were the analytical processes appropriate to the material – e.g. Were statistics used for quantitative data?
  • Did conclusions and data match up? If not, why not?

For in-depth guidance see:

'How to Read a Paper: The basics of evidence-based medicine and healthcare' which is available in our e-book collection.


our Science & Research team’s research and evaluation resource

Useful websites

Data & Statistics


Government publications


Some useful sites for finding ‘Grey’ literature


Clinical Trials


References to conference papers

  • Google Scholar – search by keyword; add ‘conference’ and the year to your search
  • Zetoc – indexes conference proceedings – check whether your institution subscribes
  • Web of Science – includes a conference proceedings’ citation index from 1990 – check whether your institution subscribes
  • Try searching individual databases for conference abstracts
  • Check the websites of our affiliated partners for conference abstracts
  • Theses: The British Library’s e-Theses Online Service (EThOS)



Always follow your university’s/institution’s guidelines.
If submitting a paper to a journal, always check their guidelines.

Otherwise, see links to useful referencing guides below.