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NURS 6810: Advanced Pathophysiology

Resources and information relevant to the topics discussed in NURS 6810.

Search Strategies

Limiters: Most databases will allow you to filter your results using facets, (sometimes called limiters or refiners. These are the options (normally located on the left side) that allow you to only display results that meet certain criteria such as peer review, full text, year of publication, etc. Using limiters can really help to cut down the number of results you get from a search.

Reference Scanning: When you find an article you like, look at the bibliography listed at the end of the article. There is a good chance that you'll find other articles that would be helpful to your research.

Identify Alternate Keywords or Subjects: Often databases will list the keywords or subject headings that are associated with the article you find. You can sometimes find this information in the abstract of the article as well. 

Use appropriately professional terms; Avoid acronyms; Don’t use too many search terms: more terms = fewer results;

Boolean Operators: Use of Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT) can sometimes be useful to help tie together or separate search terms. Use AND to only find articles that contain both of the keywords you're looking for, use OR to search for articles that use either one, and use NOT to eliminate a search term from your search. 

Truncation and Wildcards: Using the Asterisk * after a search term tells the database to look for several variations of words. For example child* will search for Child, Children, Childhood.  Wom* will search for women, woman... some databases use the ! exclamation point for the wildcard symbol. 


Keyword Searching



Subject Searching

Language Natural language (YOUR language) Pre-defined "controlled" vocabulary (database language)
Familiarity/ease of use Familiar & easy to use: a great way to start your research Not always intuitive:  pre-defined terms are used to describe ideas, concepts, objects, activities, classes of people, academic subjects, etc.
How searches work Searches for keywords anywhere in the record:  keywords are not necessarily connected in a meaningful way resulting in sources that may not be relevant Searches for specific pre-defined terms only in the subject heading or descriptor field, limiting your results to the most relevant sources
Flexibility Very flexible:  can combine together in many ways Less flexible:  need to know the exact controlled vocabulary term
Number of results Often yields too many or too few results Due to its precision, it will typically give you far fewer results than a keyword search
Relevance It May yield many irrelevant results results are usually very relevant to the topic


Boolean Operators

Try out the Boolean Machine.

Defining Research Topic

1. The first step in defining your research topic is to review your assignment. Ask yourself:

  • Are there any guidelines I need to follow (as outlined by the instructor)?
  • What are some of the current trends or issues in this area?
  • Then, ask yourself some background questions to narrow your topic. What is the disease? 
    • What medical terminology will doctors and nurses use when referring to the condition? 
    • What is the pathophysiology/etiology of the condition or disease?
    • What are the environmental and/or developmental risk factors?  
    • What are the prognosis and outcome?
    • What are the age-appropriate interventions?
    • What are the teaching points for the patient (and parents)?  Why are the teaching points beneficial? 

2. State your topic as a question. 

     Does joint protection education improve function and reduce stiffness for people with rheumatoid arthritis compared with standard arthritis education?

Try the PICO question development method.

P: Problem or population  --  Consider whether there is value in limiting the population (e.g. street youth, problem drinkers).

I: Intervention -- for example, peer‐led strategies for changing behavior. Or by focusing on the effectiveness of a particular type of theory‐based intervention (eg. Trans theoretical model) for achieving certain health outcomes (eg. smoking cessation).

C: Comparison treatment (or placebo) -- an alternate type of preventive intervention?  what's being used up to now. Comparison interventions may be no intervention, another intervention or standard care/practice.

O: Outcome -- What are you trying to accomplish, measure, improve or affect?

3. Identify the main concepts.

     To help you find keywords, try searching the National Library of Medicine's Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) for potential keywords:

4. Select alternative keywords for main concepts.

genetically altered foods GMO (genetically modified organisms)
biotechnology and food
genetically engineered
health and safety food safety
well being
consumers public

Video Tutorials on Databases Searching