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PH 270B: Toxicology I: Starting Your Literature Review

Class Presentation

        Course URL:

        Presented by:   Debbie Jan  (

        Bioscience, Natural Resources, and Public Health Library

        Phone: 510-643-8615


Framing the Question

  1. Identify the research topic questions or problems being posed to you.

  2. Gather your information.

  3. Write down what you know about the topic.

    • Chemical/substance identification and properties
      • What other names is the substance/chemical known as?
      • Are you looking at a family of chemicals or a specific chemical?
      • In what (e.g. fabrics, plastics, cosmetics, toys, etc.) and where (e.g. work, home, school, indoors, outdoors, etc.) is the substance being used?
    • Identify what kind of exposure you're looking for:
      • Exposure population: infant, child, adolescent, adult, older adult
      • Location: occupational, home, school, etc.
      • Exposure level: chronic, acute, sub-chronic, etc.
      • Route: inhalation, oral, dermal, ocular, etc.
    • Are there exposure limits?
  4. What else do you need to know? What information are you missing to answer your research topic questions or problems?

    • What international, federal, state, or other organizations are interested in your topic and have already gathered information?
    • Identify the chemicals/substances or class of compounds you're looking for
      • What unique identifiers (CAS #) exist to help you ascertain that you have the right chemical?
      • What other chemicals are or can be used for the same purpose?
  5. Break your topic into key concepts, listing each concept (with synonyms!)

  6. Create search strings to help you formulate your search.

  7. Start your research.

  8. Add to or refine your topic key concepts and search strings as you search to incorporate the information you find while searching.

Starting the Library Research Process

What causes disease?
For any "disease" or condition, you could start by considering interactions among environmental and social factors.
  » Poor diet, resulting from food choices, "causes" nutritional deficiency or obesity in a population

But consider:
  » Is it "caused" by historical distribution of land use, including (in developing countries) during colonial times?
  » Or by the regulatory environment, including crop subsidies, food inspections, etc.?
  » What about the role of NGOs, IGOs, aid networks?
  » What about infrastructure, such as food distribution networks, transportation, etc.?
  » Is the status of women/girls a factor?
  » What is the role of commercial activity?
  » What about the healthcare and health insurance system?

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 epidemiologist do?
  » What's the difference between diet, food, food supply, food habits, food chain, nutritional status, eating, energy intake, ...?
  » 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 called Medical Subject Headings, or MeSH
    » More information and examples under the General Article Databases tab.

Off-campus Access

We offer two ways to access UCB licensed library resources from off-campus:

When accessing a library licensed resource via links found on OskiCat, Start your Search, or our Databases A-Z list, you will be prompted to authenticate via CalNet or via your PIN / Cal 1 card number. If you normally search via non-licensed UCB resources (such as Google Scholar), you may need to install our bookmarklet in order to authenticate.
Note: EZProxy will replace the library's previous proxy solution. More information on EZProxy can be found on our EZProxy guide

VPN (Virtual Private Network) 
After you install and run the VPN client software on your computer, you can log in with a CalNet ID to establish a secure connection with the campus network.

VPN Settings


After connecting, make sure to CHANGE the Group: to 3-Library_VPN