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PBHL3040/PBHL3042: Health Research Methods: Search Tips

Citation Tracking

When reviewing articles and books, you might come across a citation for another article that you'd like to use. 

To find out if the Library has the article, use the Journals Search tab on the Library homepage, and search for the journal name (not the name of the article).

This will tell you if we have the full-text of this article in another database OR in paper or microform (Available at Cheng Library Periodicals).

Check your citation to find out the year that the article was published and compare it to the available options.

Try Different Terms

Need More Specific Results?

Sometimes keywords that worked well in one database won’t be as effective in another.  

Keep an eye out for new and unfamiliar concepts, as you review your results and read the literature.  Perhaps there are different ways of referring to your topic that you haven't tried yet.

You can also try using the terminology that the databases use, by exploring the Thesaurus or Subject Terms.  Many databases have a list of designated words that are used to summarize a topic, but they may not be obvious to you.

Search Strategies

Below are some things to think about before starting your research, that might help to get you started in the right direction.

  1. Searching works best when you have a research question in mind. You should be able to identify key concepts related to your research. These concepts form the basis for your search terms.  It also helps when you choose a topic that you're interested in, and will want to learn more about.
     
  2. Know your topic. Exploring general sources (a chapter in your textbook, an encyclopedia article or other background reading) is a good way to start. The better you understand a topic, the easier it is to evaluate sources.
     
  3. Know your purpose. When doing a literature review, this might involve disputing or supporting a theory or approach, and/or learning about the topic in order to develop your own assessment.
     
  4. Start early/Don't wait until the last minute. Until you've done some searching and reading, you might not recognize if your topic is too broad or narrow.  Starting early also lets you request resources that may not be available locally and need to be requested through Interlibrary Loan.
     
  5. Select resources appropriate to your topic. Scholarly research requires that you use only peer-reviewed journals. Or, you may need to use a combination of books and articles, or even news sources or primary sources.  Always refer to your assignment before beginning, to make sure you start off on the right track.

Wildcards & Truncation

Truncation Finds Multiple Word Forms

The asterisk (*) is usually used, to search words with the same root:

        Toxic* =  toxicology, toxicity, etc.

Wildcard symbols (usually a ‘?’) replace a single letter:

        Wom?n = Woman, Women

Trace Your Sources

There's nothing worse than finding the perfect article, then losing it!

When you find a great article, do at least one of the following:

  • Email a copy to yourself using the database's email function,
  • Save a copy of the PDF to your personal computer or USB drive,
  • Use a citation tool like RefWorks to store your sources.

Either of these options will make life a lot easier when it comes time to write your final paper.