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This Research Guide will give you guidance on how to search the health sciences literature effectively:
If you have no idea where to start or if you hit a brick wall, contact me. I'm here to help. That's my job.
I can work with you by phone, by email, by face-to-face appointment, or by Zoom virtual meeting technology.
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Choice a Topic
Randomly, explore a topic you find fascinating, that you enjoy, that you are passionate about, or that is causing your concern.
Perform test searches in places you usually search to see if you can find enough published material on your topic to allow you to perform a meaningful literature review. If you perform 2-3 test searches in different places and find fewer than 5 items, then seek the help of a librarian or change your topic.
Ask yourself where information on your topic might be located.
Newspapers? Government Websites? Books? Popular Magazines? Research Journals?
Is your topic cross-disciplinary? Fashion information can be found in BUSINESS, ART, HISTORY, and ENTERTAINMENT resources.
Choose your Search Tools.
Identify the tools necessary to locate published works on your topic.
Search Engines such as Google Scholar? Government websites such as the Library of Congress? Library databases or catalogs?
Use a variety of tools to get comprehensive results.
No one information searching tool will find everything you will need for an adequate literature review at the University level.
Google: This tool crawls the internet looking for matches to the letters, words, and phrases typed into the Google Search Box.
CAUTION: Google tracks your searches, archives those searches, and then manipulates future search results based on your Search History and other information the company has harvested about you.
WISDOM: It is crucial to know how to build a sophisticated search string in order to defeat manipulated results.
ADVICE: Search the internet using alternative or additional search tools such DuckDuckGo search engine or library databases. Don't rely on Google alone.
DATABASES: Databases are internet sites that contain citations of articles, books, videos, etc., that commercial publishers provide. Some databases are freely available on the internet (PubMed), but most databases require a $ubscription and user login. The TWU Libraries provide access to databases free of charge (TWU Portal Username and Password login required) and provide as much free full-text as financially feasible.
CATALOG: This tool searches an electronic list of citations for everything a Library has purchased for use. A Library Catalog lists book titles, journal titles, video titles, etc., that the Library provides and then offers location information concerning WHERE to find an item in the Library.
CAUTION: A Library Catalog does NOT list articles.
ADVICE: Use databases to locate articles.
What form of information do you need?
Decide which information format will provide the information you seek before choosing a search tool or database:
Research Articles * Newspaper articles * Videos * Book chapters * Audio Recordings * Government websites
Keep in mind that some topics have a TIME component.
Choose your words carefully.
Pain Reliever * Tylenol * Acetaminophen
Informal Formal Technical
The BEST search begins with a search for the RIGHT SEARCH WORDS. If you get the RIGHT WORDS, the literature will fall into your lap.
When choosing search terms, be comprehensive. Think of as many words as you can.
Help with finding formal & technical search terms:
Devise a Search Strategy
Make a Plan * Follow Your Plan * Track Your Work
Try using an Excel Spreadsheet or homemade matrix (table/chart) to help keep track
Use Boolean Logic
Read carefully. Analyze what you read. Write down your thoughts.
Keep the following in mind when writing:
If you need help writing, contact the TWU Write Site:
Cite your sources. Don't plagiarize.
CAUTION: Some databases (and even Google Scholar) offer citations you can copy/paste. If you use that assistance, definitely PROOFREAD.
Publisher-provided citations are not always exactly correct.