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Public Health Policy: Emerging Issues: Literature Search Tips

Effective and efficient search techniques

What is a Research Database?

 What IS a research database?

  • Use to identify articles in the professional literature.
  • Are usually discipline/subject specific.
  • File of bibliographic records (citations).
  • Article descriptions with searchable data elements:
    • Author
    • Title
    • Source
    • Abstract
    • Keywords
    • Subject headings
  • Looking at search results, to find article availability through KSU, click on the "FindIt at Kent St ate"icon.
  • KSU offers access to numerous research databases. Follow this link to alphabetical and subject lists of databases!
  • Google Scholar is great for initial "scoping searches" or to supplement searching in subject specific databases. Click the down arrow in the search box for "Advanced Search" options.

More About Search Strategies

Research Database Searching Basics

Before you begin your search for information about your Health Disparities Essay topic, take a few minutes on this page to review the basics of searching research databases:

  • What research databases are and what information they index.
  • How to effectively plan your search.
  • How to find more results by analyzing your results and examining article references.


Computer Search Term Strategies

Search effectively!

Try using a search strategy worksheet to identify key concepts in your topic and choose search words:

  • Write out a clear, detailed statement of your topic.
  • Identify the concepts embodied in the topic statement.
  • List words which authors would use to describe your topic concepts.
  • Build a search from the concept words.

Use Boolean Operators to relate concept words together

Use these connector words in your search statement:



  • Combines different concepts. 
  • Retrieves bibliographic records containing ALL concept words.


  • Use for concept synonyms.
  • Retrieves all records containing at least one of the concept words.
  • Truncation is a special case -- use * or $ with root word.
  • Look for subject headings for concepts with many synonyms.


  • Eliminates unrelated search concepts when search word has multiple senses.
  • Use with caution!

See this handout for examples of the use of Boolean connectors:

When to stop searching?

"Snowballing Technique"

Building your bibliography is like making a snowball, add layers until it is the right size.

How do you know when you have enough?

  • Are you seeing the same articles over and over?
  • You need to "own the literature."

For more see page 84 in
Health Sciences Literature Review Made Easy: The Matrix Method.

Analyze Search Results

Learn from your initial search results!

Examine the bibliographic records of relevant articles:

  • Identify additional useful keywords and subject headings. This is called citation pearl searching.
  • Identify review articles and practice guidelines by limiting/filtering.
  • Identify other ways to refine your search such as limiting/filtering by age group.

This helpful handout can help YOU do precise, targeted, and comprehensive searches!
From Richard Jizba at Creighton University Health Sciences Library.

Works Cited, References, Bibliographies, and Cited Reference Searching

Examine the references in relevant articles:

  • Identify more articles for your literature review.
  • Use the Journal Finder to find article availability.

Do a Cited Reference Search of a significant or seminal article:

  • Who has that article in their bibliography?

Use the databases listed below to do a cited reference search: