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LC 226 Community Health Promotion: Finding Primary Studies

A guide to resources

What is a Primary Study?

A primary research study is a study based on observation or experimentation. In this course you will mainly be looking for studies on humans, but studies can be done on almost anything.

Some examples of studies could be:

A study of the efficacy of a drug compared to placebo

A comparison of two different treatments for a disease

A comparison of the success of two (or more) different diets

Primary research studies can be found in many different databases, but PubMed is an excellent place to find research for this course. PubMed is a database primarily of research studies, but it also contains review articles, letters and commentaries.

To determine if you have a primary research study, begin with the abstract. It should describe the study, who it was performed on, how it was performed and briefly whsat the results were.

An example is below:


The effect of weight loss on obesity-associated endothelial dysfunction is not clear because of conflicting data, demonstrating both improvement and no change in endothelial function after weight loss in obese subjects. A 2-year prospective study (n = 121) was conducted to examine: (1) the effect of obesity and weight loss (either a low-carbohydrate or and low-fat diet) on flow mediated vasodilatation (FMD), a measure of endothelial function.


Participants reduced body weight by 7.1% ± 4.4%, 8.7% ± 6.8%, 7.1% ± 7.8%, and 4.1% ± 7.7% at 3, 6, 12, and 24 months, respectively with no significant differences between the low-fat and low-carbohydrate groups.


Endothelial function was inversely correlated with waist circumference, triglyceride level, and directly correlated with leptin in obese persons prior to weight loss. These weight losses did not confer any improvements in FMD. There were no differences between the low-fat and low-carbohydrate diets in FMD at any time point. At 6 months (r = 0.26, P = 0.04) and 1 year (r =0.28, P = 0.03), there were positive correlations between change in FMD and change in leptin but not at 2 years.


There was no significant improvement in endothelial function after 7.1% ± 7.8% weight loss at 1 year and 4.1% ± 7.7% at 2 years, achieved by either a low carbohydrate or a low fat diet.


The study will have several sections. Sometimes the sections will be named slightly different things, but they generally include: Introduction, Literature review. Participants, Methods, Results, and Conclusions.


If you have any questions, you can always ask a reference librarian.



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