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The Literature of the Life Sciences: Reading, Writing, Research

Ann C. Weller
JAMA. 1987;257(11):1528-1529. doi:10.1001/jama.1987.03390110104041.
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From an unknown prophet who lamented, "Of the making of books there is no end," to the present-day immunologist who must sort through 35 primary journals and 27 review series, the increase in the volume of literature has burdened researchers for centuries. The art of selection has assumed a new importance: today more time is spent in selecting literature than reading it.

Kronick has surveyed the literature of the life sciences, tracing the steps needed to become familiar with it. Before selection can begin, the researcher should understand the organization of the literature. The primary information sources include conferences, journals, and monographs. Conferences produce "soft" data not yet subjected to critical review. Journals remain the principal means of disseminating research results. Monographs, similar to journals, usually collect, organize, and summarize literature from a distinct subject area. These publications are important in the initial transmission of information. The secondary information sources,


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