Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
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
Is it "caused" by historical distribution of land use (redlining and racism in the US; colonialism in some other countries)?
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 about mental health issues?
What is the role of commercial activity?
What about the healthcare and health insurance system?
. . .
Keep swimming upstream !
Also, consider that
how issues are framed is influenced by our assumptions and biases.
Considering may help you determine if it's relevant to your needs. the question a research article addresses
Below are some examples of questions or lines of inquiry:
Are their racial or ethnic disparities in type 1 diabetes mellitus prevalence?
Compare and contrast personal versus "upstream" factors relevant to these disparities.
Describe examples of what may reduce these disparities, and differentiate between personal and upstream factors.
If a policy or program increases disparities, what are possible reasons for this? Differentiate between personal and systemic factors.
Describe a plan/program/policy to reduce these disparities.
Justify why systemic or upstream factors contribute more to these disparities than personal factors.
Compare these two questions, to help evaluate any intervention studies you read:
"Our intervention worked toward fixing Problem X"
"The best interventions for fixing Problem X are ..."
systematic review that addresses the question you are interested in can be very helpful
Structuring Your Search
It may be useful to have a structure to help guide you when searching.
When you formulate a research question, consider these elements:
Phenomenon: What happened?
Subject or Population: Who did it?
Time: When did it happen?
Location: Where did it happen?
Cause or Motivation: Why did it happen?
Process: How did it happen?
Note: It is possible that not all of the above elements will be appropriate for your search topic.
This exercise (docx) will take you through the process of formulating a search
PICO is another popular way to structure a search.
PICO stands for Patient or Population; Intervention; Comparison or Control; Outcome.
Embase has a PICO Search option.
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)?
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) But be aware of the fact that indexing schemes are shaped by the cultural milieu from which they originate
Index terms are sometimes called descriptors or thesaurus terms; in PubMed they are called Medical Subject Headings, or MeSH