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_KINS5508: Exercise Prescription for Individuals with Chronic Diseases and Health Conditions — Develop & Document Your Search Strategy

Library research guide for students in KINS 5508.

What Will You Learn on This Page?

In this tab of the research guide, you will learn:

Once you've engaged with all the content on this page, you should:

Create a Concept Table

You'll be crafting a complex search strategy. To ensure your search is comprehensive and replicable, you'll want to create a concept table representing the main ideas in your research question and tracking all the terminology you've used.

You can use the Google doc linked below (copy it to your own Google Drive) to develop your concept table in preparation for searching.

Watch the video for a tour of the concept table!

Planning Your Search: Keywords

There are two kinds of search terms: keywords and controlled vocabulary.

  • Keywords are any words you can think of about your topic. They can include scholarly or technical language or words a layperson might understand.
  • Controlled vocabulary, sometimes referred to as subject headings or descriptors, are the standardized terminology used by databases. These are generally organized in a hierarchy and explain what the terms mean and how they are interrelated. We'll talk more about controlled vocabulary on the PubMed and Cochrane tabs of this guide.

When you being brainstorming keywords:

  • Identify the main ideas of your PICOT question
  • In your concept table, write down literally any word or phrase that might be used to describe each component of the question
  • Lots of words may be written in different ways, such as differences in spelling, or singular and plural forms; see the Different Forms of the Same Word tab in this box for some suggestions of how to deal with that

Watch this short video to see how you might approach this process in your concept table!

Consider whether there are different forms of a word that interests you. In library databases, searching for any ending of a word is called "truncation." Frequently you can use a * to truncate a word, but the symbol can vary among different databases. In some cases, you can use a "wildcard" to find alternative spellings that fall inside a word, rather than at the end.

Some examples are below. It's worth noting that PubMed allows for truncation (use the * symbol) but not wildcard searching.

Terms may be spelled differently depending on the researchers' language background

  • ischemic vs. ischaemic
    • In PubMed, search ischemic OR ischaemic

Abbreviations may be useful

  • COPD vs. chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
    • In PubMed, search COPD OR "chronic obstructive pulmonary disease"

Singular, plural, and more

  • physiology vs. physiological
    • In PubMed, search physiol*
  • stroke vs. strokes
    • In PubMed, search stroke*

Multiple factors may apply

  • anemic vs. anemia vs aenemic vs. aenemia
    • In PubMed, search anemi* OR aenemi*

Documenting Your Search

In a systematic review, it's vital to document:

  • Where you searched
    • This could be specific databases, but it could also include things like Google Scholar or specific journals you browsed through
    • For this assignment, the only places you'll be searching are PubMed and Cochrane
  • What search strategies you used
    • Your concept table is essential to keep track of the terminology you have used (and what you've decided not to use) in your searching
    • You also need to track exactly how you searched: the exact strategy for how you combined your search terms; we'll talk more about that in the presentation below on using AND and OR in your searches
  • How many citations you found and retained at various stages of your process, starting with your searches
    • Your assignment requires you to use the PRISMA flow chart to document your search; this is a really common tool in systematic reviews

Using AND, OR, & NOT To Build a Search Strategy

Scroll through this presentation to learn about how to set up an effective database search. This is applicable to any database! We'll learn more about the details of using PubMed and Cochrane in those tabs of the guide.

If you want to view this presentation in a larger format, which I recommend, look for the icon of four arrows pointing away from one another, located in the top right corner. Clicking on that will expand the size to make it easier to see.

What's Next?

Have you:

Then you're ready to move on to the next tab, Explore PubMed: Getting Started!