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How to Find Information about Adolescent Reproductive and Sexual Health  

A guide to help you locate the best research and keep up with new developments in the field
Last Updated: Feb 28, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

Getting Started Print Page

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Search PubMed

PubMed is the National Library of Medicine's database of over 20 million citations for biomedical literature.
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Search Popline

  • Click to search Popline
    The POPLINE database on reproductive health provides more than 360,000 citations with abstracts to scientific articles, reports, books, and unpublished reports in the field of population, family planning, and related health issues.

Search Google Scholar

Search the web

Search the OMH Knowledge Center

Citation Styles

Publications, and professors, have different requirements as to how references should be cited in papers and articles.  Consult your editor or professor before selecting one. 


How to start

Searching for information on adolescent reproductive and sexual health can be daunting, but it gets easier with practice.  

  • First, identify your topic.  Be as specific as possible.  What question are you trying to answer?
  • Then, visit quality sources (like Google scholarPubmed (the National Library of Medicine's online database), and Popline (a database of articles about sexual and reproductive health and population issues), and search on your topic.  
  • Do a general web search to see if there are organizations working in this topic area.
  • Narrow your information down to what is most relevant and make sure you work from the full articles, not just the abstract.
  • If you can't find what you're looking for, try different sources or broaden your search.
  • Whatever you're working on, keep your sources organized so you know where the information you cited came from. 
  • Once you're finished, keep up with new information in the field as it is published (see the Tips at the bottom of this page).

Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I get  access to these articles I have found?

Most scholarly articles are available online, and many are free.  You should see a "Download" link by the article or report.  If it is not free, you may have access to it through your public, college, or university library: go to the library's website and look for "electronic resources."  If you are not a student or your public library doesn't carry the journal you want, you may, as a state resident, have access to your nearest state university library - call and check.  Some articles simply can't be had except by purchasing - usually a $10 to $40 cost.  

How do I know a source is good?

You can gauge if a journal is of high quality by seeing if it's "peer reviewed" - the most rigorous journals are. You may also wish to check out Eigenfactor, a ranking of journals by their scientific rigor and impact.  For information from organizations and websites, check out the info on the organization to make sure it's legitimate - is it run by scholars/scientists?  Is it widely cited?  The sources linked to in our state, national, and global health tabs above all provide reliable information and statistics, so your best bet is to use one of them. 

What about Wikipedia?

Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia edited by the public, is a great starting point for research.  The quality of its information is usually good. But because it can be changed at any time by any person,  and because it is not a primary source (meaning Wikipedia doesn't collect scientific data, just reports on it),it is not an ideal source for rigorous research.  A great solution is to look up your topic, see what Wikipedia has to say, and use that to get ideas for further researc; or look up the articles the Wikipedia article has cited in its footnotes and work from those sources.

Do you have any tips for using PubMed?

PubMed, the National Library of Medicine's database of medical research, contains tens of millions of citations from scientific journals. It is easy to use with natural language (just type in what you're looking for).  Other tips:

  • Make an account (by clicking "My NCBI" and registering) so you can save searches and collections.
  • Mark certain articles as useful by "adding to clipboard," then go back to the clipboard to review what you have found.  NOTE:  The clipboard expires, so be sure to register and to save your collection
  • Carefully review the "related articles" of articles that match your search.  This is your best bet for finding articles about difficult topics that might not have come up using your search terms..  

How do I cite a website?

There are a few types of citation styles, so check with your professor or supervisor to see which one should be used. (See the "Citation styles" box on the left of this page for guides to various styles.)  In addition to title, author (if possible), and organization info, a citation for a website should always include the URL and the date you accessed the information.  

What’s the difference between teen birth and pregnancy rates and why is one available so much later?

The teen birth rate is the annual number of births per 1,000 young women ages 15-19.  Hospitals are required to report, and health departments to collect, certain "vital statistics," including stats about births, so the teen birth rate for the U.S., most states, and some communities is available on an annual or biennial basis.

The teen pregnancy rate is a calculation based on the number of pregnancies, fetal losses (miscarriages), and abortions among young women ages 15-19.  It takes time to collect this information from various health departments, and to make the calculation.  That is why as of December 2011, the most recent teen pregnancy information is for the year 2006, while the most recent teen birth information is from 2010. 

Why can’t I find the specific statistic I need, or, why is this statistic so old?

It can be challenging to find statistics about young people and sexual health.  Much national and global research about sexual health topics does not include information about young people or doesn't split this information out from information about adults. If you've gone through the sources in this guide under the State, Local, and Global info, and tried searching the web, Google scholar, Pubmed, and Popline, the information you need might not be available - try broadening your search.

I'm stuck - what can I do?

If you are having difficulty finding the information, try these ideas:
  • Consider if different information will serve you just as well.  For instance, if you can't find stats for a specific age group, try looking for info on the grade level that roughly lines up.  If you can't find information specific to age, race, AND gender, are you able to drop one of those indicators?  Think about different ways you can make your point and look for stats that way.
  • Make sure you have exhausted all synonyms in your search - look for teen, youth, and adolescent, look under sexually transmitted infections and also under sexually transmitted diseases, gender bias as well as sex discrimination, etc.  Terminology can vary - it helps to make a list of synonyms.
  • Call an organization that works on the issue in question and see if they can help.  For instance, you can reach Advocates for Youth's librarian by calling 202 419 3420 or emailing 


Tips for keeping up with new research

New research in this field comes out every day.  Here are some tips for keeping up with it.

  • New research is often tweeted the moment it becomes available to the public!
  • Follow organizations, journals, and other relevant parties on Twitter.  
  • Set "google news alerts" on topics you're interested in. Google allows you to receive an email every time news about a topic is published, or receive once-daily updates about the topic.
  • Subscribe to emails from the relevant journals. Journals like the Journal of Adolescent Health and Pediatrics send out an email of the table of contents when a new issue is being published - or you can even ask to be alerted if information on a specific topic is published.
  • Use PubMed's tools. The National Library of Medicine's database of scientific articles, Pubmed, allows you to create an RSS feed or save a saerch for future ease of use.  Each of Advocates for Youth's Research Guides contains a PubMed RSS feed specific to that topic. 

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Emily Bridges
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Advocates for Youth
2000 M Street NW, Suite 750
Washington, DC 20036
202 419 3420
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