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Health Sciences 3900

Resources for HS3900: Introduction to Research Methods

Layout your game plan...

Save time & aggravation by answering the following questions before you start your literature review.

1.  What's my topic or question?
Ex.  Sugared drinks are a main cause of the obesity epidemic

2.  What are my main concepts? 
Ex.  1.  Sugared drinks; 2.  Obesity

3.  What are other terms or synonyms for my topics? 
Ex.  Sugared drinks - soft drinks, soda, cola, juice, sport drinks;  Obesity -  obese, overweight, fat

4.  What types of sources or materials can I use? 
Ex.  journal articles, books, evidence-based guidelines

5.  Putting it together
Ex.  (Sugared drinks OR soft drinks OR soda OR cola Or juice) AND (Obesity OR overweight) AND (guideline OR random*)

Now that you know your topic & your terms, choose the database(s) that you'll use.  Read below & on the next column for tips on how to find articles using the terms you listed in questions 2 & 3 above. 

If you have questions, ask us at

Subject Searching

Many databases tag terms to the articles  --  similar to tagging your social media posts.  

The agreed-upon, standard terms used in library catalogs and databases are called subject headings or descriptors

The subject headings in a catalog or database record will often help you locate more books/articles that are similar.  It works much as "find more like this" or "find similar" links do elsewhere.

General Tips

Truncation  - find all words starting with the letters you have typed.   Most common truncation symbol is the asterisk *
Ex, obes* = obese, obesity
      child* = child, childhood, childlike, children

Wildcard - used to substitute letters inside a word
Ex. wom*n = woman OR women
      colo*r = color OR colour

Exact Phrase - use quotation marks around your term to get that exact phrase
Ex. "high fructose corn syrup"

Field Searching - you can search specifically in the title, the abstract (summary), or by author.   
Most databases have pull down menus that let you select which field you want to search.

Boolean Or Combined Searching

Your searches will work best in most databases if you break your topic apart and then combine the concepts with AND/OR.  This is called Boolean logic and is named after a mathematician

AND  - narrows your searches
   Ex.  Obesity AND Sugared drinks


OR - broadens your searches
    Ex. sugared drinks OR sweetened beverages OR soft drink*

 Most databases will have pull down boxes where you can select AND or OR.

You can also use these together by using parenthesis.
     (obesity OR overweight) AND (sugared drinks OR sweetened beverage* OR soft drink* OR juice OR sports drinks)

The above in pictures 
   OR - gets all the info from both circles


AND - gets only the info where the circles overlap

Demo: Boolean Operators