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Epidemiology HSC4500

A research guide to find epidemiology resources from the EFSC Libraries.

Research Process

Before you can start your research you need to select a topic. Your topic should:

  • fit the requirements of your assignment

  • not be too general (broad) or too specific (narrow)

  • interest you!

To help you focus your topic, it's best to put your topic into the form of a question.

For a refresher on Topic Development, check out Module 2 Topic Development of BILT: Basic Information Literacy Tutorial.

Next, break your topic into 2 or 3 main concepts.

Then brainstorm keywords for each concept. Think of synonyms or related terms. A thesaurus, dictionary, or your textbook can be useful when thinking of related terms. Sometimes broader or narrower terms can be helpful too.

Why brainstorm? When searching, it's hard to know what words authors will use when they're writing about your topic. It's a good strategy to have a list of possible keywords ready so you can swap out terms as you search and hopefully get more and/or better results.

Think about:

  • clinical terms versus lay terms

    • myocardial infarction vs. heart attack
    • neoplasm vs. cancer
  • acronyms versus the term(s) spelled out

    • HIV vs. human immunodeficiency virus

    • HIPAA vs. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act

  • variations of a term

    • ultrasonography, ultrasound, sonography

The way you combine your keywords in a search can make a big difference in the quality of results found.

Review Module 4 Search Strategies of BILT: Basic Information Literacy Tutorial for more details on the following strategies.

Boolean Logic: these operators are used to combine keywords:


  • use to combine concepts
  • each term MUST be present in the search results
  • narrows your results
  • finds fewer results
  • example: visitation AND intensive care units


  • use when searching for synonyms or related terms
  • broadens your results
  • finds more results
  • example: ICU OR intensive care units

Truncation:takes a root word and finds all endings of that word. The truncation symbol is the asterisk, *.

  • expands your search
  • finds more results
  • helpful when searching for both singular and plural forms of a word
  • example: infect* will find infect, infects, infected, infection, infecting, etc.

Phrase Searching:is useful when you are searching for keywords that are more than one word. Use quotes, " ", around terms.

  • focuses your search
  • use when you want your terms to appear together, exactly as entered
  • more precise than combining terms with AND
  • example: "intensive care unit" will find better, more focused results than intensive AND care AND unit