Research topic or research question
The research topic is a key part of the search process, and obviously guides your search for literature. However,
It may not be appropriately phrased to use in the development of a search strategy
For that you need the research question.
Take time to review and rewrite your research question; it is very important but can be quite elusive. Try writing it on a piece of paper and then rewrite a number of times. You might also want to discuss it with someone if that is possible. It is interesting that, when discussing search questions with researchers, often after quite some time they will say "...well actually what I am looking for is..." and then you are able to go back an review the question.
There are many search frameworks that can help you to map your research topic to your keywords to you research question . Look at the further reading section on this page for links to useful information on the topic. Examples include:
Setting (context) - Perspective - Intervention - Comparison – Evaluation
ECLIPSE (Health social care management, services, and policy)
Expectation - Client group - Location - Impact - Professional involved - Service
(Wildridge and Bell, 2002)
Population – Exposure – Outcome
The example later in this page develops a PICO question.
A template is a useful way to lay out your search. Templates may differ slightly but follow a similar pattern of getting you to think about your research topic, keywords and research question. One template is available on the BU Health library guide (download from the 'Search Strategy Proforma' box) but you can always create one yourself. It should include
You may wonder how many columns you need to fill in. This varies, but you don't need to use all of them, even if you follow a structure like PICO. Sometimes you may only use two, and sometimes you may only use one.
The use of mass media to prevent smoking in young people
Mass media interventions
Are mass media interventions effective in preventing smoking in young people?
Publication date range:
Sources to search:
Minimum: Cochrane; PROSPERO; Medline; Embase; CINAHL; PsycINFO;
Bettany-Saltikov, J., 2012. How to do a systematic literature review in nursing: a step-by-step guide [online]. Maidenhead: Open University Press.