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Literature reviews: Health: Search strategy

For level 6/7 students

Look at the 'check your progress' box at the bottom of this page to make sure you have completed all the steps for this stage of your search

Develop your Search Strategy

Your Search Strategy Form helps you work out the keywords for searching your topic, and developing a research question.

Worked example of a search planning form

Concept Tools

Concept tools allow you to think about your research question in a very structured way.

PICO is a very well-known concept tool, very useful for queries about a specific treatment or intervention, focused on a specific group of people. Some examples below:

Question: do mass media interventions (e.g. adverts) help prevent smoking in young adults (12-18)?
  • Patient/population: young adults (12-18)
  • Intervention: mass media intervention
  • Comparison:no mass media intervention; other types of intervention (such as leaflets).
  • Outcome: smoking prevention.
Question: does exercise improve recovery in adults (20-60) undergoing chemotherapy?
  • Patient/population: adults (20-60) on chemotherapy
  • Intervention: exercise
  • Comparison: no exercise
  • Outcome: improved recovery

Other concept tools

Other concept tools might be more useful depending on your query. Some examples below:

PEO is very useful for qualitative queries:

Question: what is the effect of eating habits on the overall health of elderly people?
  • Population/problem: elderly people (65 and over)
  • Exposure: eating habits
  • Outcomes or themes: effect on overall health.
Question: are student nurses trained to cope with future stress in the workplace?
  • Population/problem: student nurses
  • Exposure: education
  • Outcomes or themes: coping with stress in the workplace
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Check your progress

Stage of your search Things to remember
Have you formulated your research topic?
  • This IS NOT the final research question at this point.
  • You need to do the searching and find articles in order to determine what you are researching and what your actual research question is going to be
List the search terms you have used
  • Use the Search Strategy Form to list your initial search terms, keywords and synonyms, based on your research topic