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BIO 409: Current Research Topics in Medical Sciences II

Research Tips

Example of a broad topic: "artificial organs"

To narrow it down, choose a specific organ or add specifying terms like: 

  • “complications”
  • “cost”
  • “ethical issues”
  • “damage”
  • “procurement”
  • “3-D printing”
  • “wear and tear”

 Also consider selecting a specific population group: age and/or gender.

Example of a research question: “What are possible complications of an artificial heart in elderly patients?” 

All library electronic resources (databases) allow two types of searches.

  1. Subject Search (Subject Terms)

PubMed, MEDLINE and CINAHL use a thesaurus or MeSH terms to help you narrow your initial search terms down and get more relevant results. For example, subheadings are available, such as “adverse effects” or “artificial organ complications”.  You can also select a specific organ, for example: “Pancreas, artificial”.

The Subject Search only searches in one record field “Subjects”. That is why it is so precise, relevant search.

Combine it with Keyword “Advanced Search” to add more terms: a population group or a phrase, e.g., “ethical implications”.  

  1. Keyword Search (Advanced Mode)

Allows to add limiters, such as type of materials: "scholarly publications" or a date range, such as "last 5 years".

This type of search retrieves many more results than for the Subject Search because it searches in several record fields: “Title”, “Subjects”, and “Abstract”. 

Other types of limiters you can add: age, gender, geography (where the journal was published). 

Example of a search string:

“artificial heart” AND “complications” AND “elderly”

Citation Chaining

Resources cited in the article - Resources that cite the article 

Once you find a good resource, such as an article relevant to your topic, a good strategy is to mine its list of references for additional useful resources. This process is called “backward chaining”. You can also do “forward chaining” to identify those who have cited the article you found. This way you search backwards and forwards in time for related resources. One resource links you to another, which links you to another, and so on to create a chain of relevant literature. 

Citation chaining is especially useful for writing a literature review since it helps you follow chains of related sources. 

Tip: articles published in the last few years might be too recent to have any other articles citing them.