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Physician Assistant Capstone Project

UMKC Physician Capstone Project Guide. MEDPA 5595 Capstone.

What Makes a Good Background Source

  • Librarians in the health sciences often get challenged by students as to why or why not certain resources count as "authoritative" enough to reference in their papers. This especially happens when the information they are citing is generally well-accepted by the medical community.  This guide will attempt to explain how to find and correctly use "authoritative" background information in your papers.
  • While point-of-care tools and study aids provide reliable definitions and information about symptoms, diagnoses, treatment options and more, they are not "formal" enough to be used in your academic assignments. Point-of-care reference tools like like UpToDate, Sanfords, Epocrates, and Medscape are meant to be used in the moment, while practicing medicine. Study aids or test review material like USMLE study guides and PANCE Pearls might present information in a way that is easy to understand, absorb, or even memorize, but they should not be used as reference information in the background sections of papers you are asked to write.
  • Just as we speak informally, we dress up our language when we write. (Look at any transcript of a normal conversation and you'll see how much we assume and leave out when we speak. On paper that transcribed conversation seems incomplete, but during the spoken exchange, the ideas are communicated adequately). When we write, it is important to explicitly connect the flow of ideas that you are communicating. Finally, it is important that your readers feel comfortable with the comprehensiveness and authority of what you are saying. Your readers might not be familiar with the latest popular study aid series, but they will know about long-standing professional associations whose contributors repeatedly publish on the topic. Your audience might also know about the research and writings of the most current and prolific experts in a given field, so it might be essential to mention reference them. 


Avoid Using...

Do not use point-of-care resources and study aids as references in the final draft of your paper. This is not to say that it's wrong to consult resources like UpToDate or Micromedex when you are in the process of writing it. In fact, it's good to consult multiple resources when learning something new. One thing that’s good about checking many resources like these is that you start to see how many of them agree (or disagree) and how one might do a better job explaining the concept than another. Perhaps it's written in a way that is easier for you to understand or places more emphasis on the parts of the concepts that are most important to your purpose. Ideally, if you consult many sources in your build-up to writing - having read about the same topic in a variety of places - the ideas might come out more naturally and you’ll have an easier time using your own words.


Find an Alternative

Even if you really like how one person (an especially good writer/educator) puts it, try to find the information in another “more authoritative” source.  For example, when looking for the etiology of acute rotator cuff tears, the information might be found in ePocrates, but there is sure to be something more authoritative that has been published by a professional organization like, for example, the Society of Orthopedic Surgeons.  Rather than use a wide ranging too like ePocrates (that provides a little bit of information about a much many things) it is better to use a resource tha specializes in the subject (in this case orthopedics surgery)


*Content From Physician Assistant Capstone Project: PA Capstone Assignment LibGuide FIU, Rebecca Roth

* Monograph: A relatively short book or on a single subject, complete in one physical piece, usually written by a specialist in the field (ODLIS)

Portions of this page have been mapped from our Authoritative Sources of Background Information Library Guide. Visit the guide for more details.