Secondary sources- Information


Websites are a useful means of accessing government documents and important reports. The details for the government departments most relevant to health and social care research are listed at the end of this unit.

Websites for charities that provide health and social care services or carry out medical research can also be useful sources of data.

The amount of information available on the Internet is vast, and can be accessed via many different websites, which can make it difficult to find an article again at a later date. Good discipline is valuable, not only for your research project, but for all study. Here are some useful tips for Internet research:

• always save all the details you need to compile a reference list for the research report; these should include a) the URL (full web address details as taken from the textbox at the top of your Internet screen), b) the day/month/year date you accessed the webpage and c) if possible, the year the document was posted on the website or published

• save web addresses on the personalised ‘Favourites’ directory of your Internet Service Provider (ISP) so you can return to the same site with a single click

• download documents you may want to return to later, saving them to a data stick or hard drive on your computer

• avoid printing out whole documents unless they are difficult to read on screen, or contain complex information you wish to annotate or return to repeatedly; sometimes printing selected pages is sufficient, combined with saving an e-copy.


Produce a table outlining the strengths and weaknesses of using websites to gather data. Include examples of when you should or shouldn't use websites to gather information in different research areas.


Journals are specialist publications published at regular intervals for specialist groups such as professionals, scientists and other researchers. Academic journals publish reports of research. The publication of research in a journal is an important aspect of the research process. Indeed, in the UK, government funding of research partly depends upon publication this way and in future will also be dependent on how often other people read the research reports. Some weekly or monthly journals may be available for reading in your school or college library or in placement settings. These days, libraries subscribe to online versions of journals so those registered with the library can access them online.


Produce a table outlining the strengths and weaknesses of using peer-reviewed journals to gather data. Include examples of when you should or shouldn't use journals to gather information in different research areas.


Print and broadcast media can be a valuable source of information, particularly in relation to news but also on other topics of broad interest to the public.


Newspapers are a traditional source of information about what is going on in the world and individual customers tend to purchase the same paper every day.

Newspapers can be influential in developing opinions among the public (e.g. about controversial topics or at election time). However, each UK newspaper is written to appeal to its particular group of customers and they can show their bias by:

• what they present as the main news (e.g. on the front page)

• what they decide to write about it

• from what perspective they write (e.g. that of business or the private individual, etc.).

Professionals and researchers should be aware of this when using newspapers as a source of information for research. Some newspaper publishers are beginning to restrict free access to news stories online so that people have to pay a subscription in order to read them.

Broadcast media

Radio and television provide news, information and discussion of different opinions on a wide range of topics. The rigour of the broadcast content can vary across channels but several television and radio programmes frequently discuss topics relevant to health and social care including, for example, longstanding favourites such as Panorama, Horizon and Regional News on television and The Today Programme, You and Yours, and Woman’s Hour on Radio 4.


Produce a table outlining the strengths and weaknesses of using media (newspapers, broadcast media, etc) to gather data. Include examples of when you should or shouldn't use media to gather information in different research areas


Books are the traditional means of publishing information. Social science theory tends to be published in books, whereas science-based research reports are usually published initially in journals. New knowledge and understanding from research gets incorporated more widely into specialist textbooks later so recently published textbooks have greater credibility than books published several years ago.

In health and social care, continual policy change can mean a textbook is soon out of date. However, a book published a long time ago may be the original book written by a particular theorist. When quoting the theory in your own writing, you need to reference the source in such a way that it is clear whether you have read the original book or journal article or just read about the theory (or research) in a more recently published textbook.

School, college or university libraries tend to stock textbooks and other books for study. In contrast, public libraries tend to stock books of more general interest, including books about specific disorders and health and care issues.


Apart from the Internet itself and online academic journals and newspapers, an increasing number of books are available as e-books, either by direct purchase or if you are a member of a library.


Produce a table outlining the strengths and weaknesses of using books and e-books to gather data. Include examples of when you should or shouldn't use books to gather information in different research areas.


Obtain a copy of a newspaper article related to health and social care. In the forum investigate how each paper has reported the story.

1 Each newspaper will have presented the health and social care news differently. 

What key message is each putting across in its headlines?

What factual information do they present?

Where is the story located in the newspaper? 

Has the paper sought the views of different people? 

What is the newspaper’s opinion? (You may need to look at the ‘comments’ or ‘editorial’ page to find this out.) 

What is the style of writing?

2 When you have compared the way each newspaper has covered the story, you need to think about how the information has influenced your own perspective. 

What have you learned about the story? 

Which newspaper do you think has given the fairest (most balanced) coverage to the news story? 

What are your reasons for this? 

What is your opinion of the story now? 

How important do you think the story is in relation to health and social care? 

What has influenced your judgement on this?

3 Now consider where you may find out more about the story – to check the accuracy of the information you have read in the newspapers. 

Is there a report that you could read? 

What does the government say about it? 

Where could you get other opinions on the story? 

If you investigate these sources, to what extent does additional information confirm or alter your own opinion and conclusions about the health and social care story?

Last modified: Monday, 30 Mar 2020, 14:18