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You can still access the UC Berkeley Library’s services and resources during the closure. Here’s how.

PH 292: PHN & HSB 1st Year Seminar: Home


Guide URL:

Presented by Lee Adams (

Feel free to contact me with questions or for an appointment. Or, drop by the Public Health Library!

Find Articles & More

Starting the Library Research Process

Is your topic researchable?

  • Adolescent obesity
  • The role of French fry consumption at high school football games on the obesity among sophmore male choir members
  •  The relationship of screen time and obesity for adolescent girls

Think about your topic

  • What terms encapsulate your topic?
  • Are there synonyms?

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 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 called Medical Subject Headings, or MeSH 

Literature Review Matrix

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.