Also see our MCH Library Guide for more resources, such as statistics, publications, and organizations.
Starting the Library Research Process
Is your topic researchable?
"Harmful fetal effects of beer consumption by pregnant students at college athletic events"
"Determinants of binge drinking among female college students in the United States"
"Alcohol consumption by young adults"
Think about your topic
What terms encapsulate your topic?
Are there synonyms?
Let's talk about indexing!
Do you want articles on labor or articles on labor? Or is it labour?
Do you want articles on HIV (a virus) or articles on HIV diseases (such as AIDS)?
Is epidemiology a concept relating to the causes and distribution of diseases, or is it what epidemiologists do?
Is lead a noun or a verb?
Indexing facilitates more precise search statements, especially for topics that are vague or ambiguous.
Using index terms also helps you avoid the need to think of every possible synonym or alternate spelling of your search terms.
Indexing means the citations in the database are assigned terms from a controlled vocabulary (Not all databases use a controlled vocabulary, however)
Index terms are sometimes called descriptors or thesaurus terms; in PubMed they are calledMedical Subject Headings, or MeSH
What is Evidence?
Things to keep in mind:
All research is (potentially) "evidence" and there are no "perfect" studies.
Is there an agenda (bias)?
It's doubtful that any study of humans is totally without some kind of bias, either in the study design, or in the author's pre-existing beliefs, not to mention the source of the research funds. How bias in methodology was controlled and the significance of bias in any particular study is what's relevant.
Is qualitative research "evidence"?
If your goal is to understand beliefs and meanings in the group with whom you are working, then qualitative studies can be important.
What to Consider When Looking at Survey or Estimated Data
Look at sample sizes and survey response rates
Representative of your population?
Enough responses to be valid?
Who was surveyed?
Representative of population being compared to?
Include group you are interested in?
Were the survey respondents from heterogeneous groups?
Do the survey questions mean the same things to members of different groups?
The Literature Review Matrix (below) may help you organize what you find in your literature search. This matrix is a simplified version from Health Sciences Literature Review Made Easy (see book below). Older editions of this book are available at the Public Health Library, Optometry Library, and the Social Research Library.