La Trobe University Library La Trobe Library


La Trobe University Library La Trobe Library


La Trobe University Library La Trobe Library



Essays in Health Science

Other writing in Health Sciences

Why do you write literature reviews at university?

The literature review is a common assessment task, from second-year subjects through to PhD theses, and there are particular conventions associated with them. In most literature reviews, you are required to:

  • Read the relevant literature (using academic search engines and/or sources recommended by your course coordinator)
  • Select good quality sources that are relevant to your topic
  • Arrange the sources into topic groups
  • Analyse the literature, including comparison and contrast of the authors’ arguments and opinions
  • Include some of your own evaluation or response to the material

Sample assessment criteria for a Literature Review in a health subject

  1. Title Page: Essay title, student name, number, subject, degree course, university, email, postal address.
  2. Article / Book Details / Reference information : Author/s, Date, Title, Journal / Book, Publisher, Place, DOI
  3. Introduction: Overview of article, chapter, book – what is the topic area about?
  4. Key Points: What argument / perspective is the author/s trying to convey (but not just dot points!)
  5. Critical Analysis Arguments / debates/ compare and contrast utilizing other articles.
  6. Personal response: This may be your response to the issue, including how it might relate to your own life or culture. The personal response is in addition to your summary of the content
  7. References: List your chosen reading and other articles or texts that you have cited. Use the APA [6th edition] for referencing style / format. Warning: References are expected to be complete / accurate. Do not simply list http: … etc., as a cited reference! Pay close attention to academic integrity use the Academic Referencing Tool to guide you when using in-text citations and your reference list.

Adapted from: Subject Learning Guide – PHE1-PHW (La Trobe University, Melbourne Campus)

Sample literature review excerpt from a health journal article

The lack of impact of money on the disadvantaged 'community'

Hover the pointer over the text below to discover the reviews of each excerpt.

A number of texts conveyed the 'communities' receiving money for harms or from land settlements as disproportionately disadvantaged compared to other sectors of the population, (Cowell et al., 2012; Lucas-Darby, 2012; O'Faircheallaigh, 2004; Saito, 2012), for example low-income residents facing potential harms from urban commercial development: "These projects tend to reflect the policy interests of affluent members of society and negatively impact low-income communities" (Saito, 2012, p130).
Some texts argued that money given as compensation or reparations would not improve the levels of social and economic inequality that the recipient 'communities' faced (Anders, 1989; Franklin, 2012), or that the money given would not adequately address the harms faced by 'communities' (Egre et al., 2007; McLean, 2012). Across these texts, therefore, were implied conceptualisations of 'community' as defined by, and situated in a complex context of inequalities which would be little affected by the receipt of money (p.94)

Reports are very common within Health Science. They usually present the findings of an investigation into an issue. At the end, they usually include a section on recommendations for future practices.

Reports usually:

  • contain headings and sub headings which are often numbered for easy access
  • contain a Table of Contents at the beginning
  • can include figures, tables and diagrams
  • can include dot points

Below is a section from a World Health Organization report. 
To access this content in an alternative format, contact SL@latrobe.edu.au

Results for Sample Country


A total of 142 individuals responded to the key information survey in Sample Country. More than half were female (60%) and a third were working in a rural setting. Clinicians formed a small proportion of respondents (about 10%). More than 60% of respondents had insurance for their own personal health. Most respondents (80%) university or college education which reflects that higher-level health personnel and academics were targeted in this survey. Figure 1 shows the key informant’s self-reported main place of work.

Figure 1: Percentage of key informants and main place of work (n=142)


Health system responsiveness level

Respondents were asked their opinion on the responsiveness of the public and private health sectors to the population in their country using 39 questions for eight domains listed in Table 1. The results are summarized in Figure 2. Across all domains, key informants were of the opinion that public health sector responsiveness was worse than private sector responsiveness. In the public sector, the weakest domains were dignity, prompt attention and autonomy. In the private sector, confidentiality was the weakest domain.   

Figure 2: Percentage of key informants rating the responsiveness domains as "very bad" or "bad" (n>=35, four rotations of this section)

World Health Organisation. (2003). Key informant opinion survey. Health system responsiveness survey results: equitable, humane, patient-centred treatment by health systems, or not? Sample Report. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/responsiveness/KIS%20Report.pdf

Academic posters are a way of visually communicating research projects. Poster displays are usually part of academic conferences where they help presenters engage with other colleagues. Posters need to deliver concise information very clearly. There are many examples of academic posters available online as well as many templates.

Tips for poster presentations:

  • Do not include too much detail.
  • Balance the placement of graphics and text.
  • Use colour cautiously. Dark letters on a white background are best for text.
  • Readers' eyes naturally move from top to bottom and from left to right.  Make this part of your design.
  • The results and implications of your work are the most important.  Do not spend too much time on methods.

Below is a sample poster produced for a Health subject, with some useful tips & strategies for designing your own poster.
To access this content in an alternative format, contact SL@latrobe.edu.au

In your studies in Health Sciences you will come across unfamiliar medical terms that you will need to understand and use. Being able to decode these terms to work out their meaning is a valuable skill. The following examples provide an introduction to the way medical terms are structured and the meanings associated with the root, prefix and suffix parts of the term. For quick reference you can start your own medical terms dictionary by entering terms as you encounter them in a pocket sized alphabetical notebook.

1. The basic structure of medical terms

Medical terminology can be decoded by looking for the root or core of the word and then looking at the attached prefix and/or suffix. The exact spelling or word form depends on the various combinations and how the word is pronounced.


HEPATITIS : liver inflammation

HEPAT - root that shows the affected organ (liver)

-ITIS - suffix that shows what the problem is (inflammation)


Medical conditions that occur in the body










Neuropathy (nerve disease)

Cardiopathy (heart disease)


Related to growth

Muscular dystrophy (muscle disease)


Abnormal cell growth

Melanoma (abnormal growth of melanocytes)



These suffixes indicate procedures undertaken:





Opening surgically

Craniotomy (surgical opening of skull)


Act of examining

Arthroscopy (examination of joint)


Removing surgically

Splenectomy (surgical removal of spleen)


Creating an opening

Colostomy (Creating an opening of colon to surface of abdomen)

Three other suffixes refer to important body fluids:





In the bloodstream

Glycaemia (blood glucose level)


In the urine

Haematuria (blood in  the urine)



Haematemesis (vomiting blood)

3. Prefixes

These prefixes are often used to indicate quantity or amount and can be directly linked to some suffixes.




A – an-

Lack of

Atrophy (wasting or decrease in size); Anaemia (lack of blood)


Few, little

Oliguria (reduced urination)


Many, excessive

Polyuria (excessive urination)


Abnormally low levels of

Hypothermia (low body temperature)


Abnormally high levels of

Hyperglycaemia (high levels of glucose in the bloodstream)


Difficult, painful, bad

Dysuria (painful urination); Dyspnoea (painful or laboured breathing)



Harris, P., Nagy, S., & Vardaxis, N. (2006). Mosby’s dictionary of medicine, nursing & health professions (Australian & New Zealand ed.). Sydney: Elsevier Australia

What is it? An annotated bibliography is a list of reading material (literature) that you select on a specific topic, with comments (annotations) summarising the key ideas of each reading, and your evaluation of its contribution to your topic.

Usually an annotated bibliography assignment is a step on the way to writing a research essay or report, but sometimes it is used as an assessment task on its own.

What is it for? An annotated bibliography might serve a number of purposes:

  • To help you identify the key information for your assignments

  • To show your tutor/lecturer, or a peer, your selection and interpretation of relevant readings

  • To build your skills of summarising and critically evaluating texts

  • At a broader level it helps other students/researchers decide if this is a useful text for them

What does it look like?

An annotated bibliography is arranged alphabetically by author’s family name (like any reference list). Each entry starts with the full reference (bibliographic details) of a source (the citation). This is followed by a brief annotation of about one paragraph (approx. 100 -150 words) per citation (see the sample below).You might need somewhere between 5-20 sources, depending on your assignment.

Each annotation should include:

  • A clear explanation of the topic or theme of the research material

  • An identification of the key argument(s) in the source

  • A description of the author’s method (e.g. how they came to their conclusions)

  • A concluding sentence or two that describes what this research material will contribute to your essay

You don’t need to read the whole book or article, at this stage.

  • Read the introduction or the key sections dealing with your topic

  • For a journal article, read the introduction and conclusion and use the subheadings to locate the most relevant parts.

  • For a scientific paper, look at the methods and the main findings as well. Scan the discussion (what did they ask? what did they learn?)

  • For a report, read the summary, intro, conclusion and recommendations at the end. Use your judgement about how much more you need to read in order to know what this source says and does.