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Healthcare and Social Services: Where to start


Information is everywhere

  • It might be easy to find some information on a given topic, but how to locate information that is relevant and reliable?
  • Using different databases will help.

Information retrieval is a skill and will need practice.

Where to start?

Searching is most successful and efficient if you first define your information need (what is the problem that needs a solution).

  • It is easier to find relevant information when you have clear questions that need answering.

Think about the following questions:

  • What do I need to know? What kind of information am I looking for? What is relevant in this context? What can I leave out?

Analyse your topic

Write down the key concepts relating to your topic, and think about what synonyms might be used in describing them

Also think about how your topic relates to larger concepts or whether your topic can be broken down into smaller sections

  • Hierarchy: Diseases – Neoplasms – Cysts – Bone cysts
  • Parallel: Competency – Education – Knowledge – Professional development – Skill acquisition

What search terms to use?

Defining what words to use when searching is central since same concepts can be described by using different words
⇒ "If your keywords don’t work, try some different keywords"

  • Professional terminology is a good place to start
  • However, do not forget subject headings!
    • Databases use specific controlled vocabularies to describe the content of articles and books

Subject headings

MeSH: Medical Subject Heading

  • Used in many healthcare databases, e.g. PubMed

Some databases also have their own vocabularies (Cinahl).

How to find relevant subject headings for my search?

  • Try searches using your own terms and see what subject headings have been used to describe relevant articles.
  • You can also explore MeSH (available online)

Subject Heading Examples



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