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HLTH 228 / ICPR 228: Social Epidemiology (HC)

HLTH 228 / ICPR 228: Social Epidemiology (Montgomery) Spring 2020

Understand the Process

  • Information research is an iterative process, meaning a cycle rather than a straight line. Assuming you have a research question in mind, you may follow a process like this:
    • Brainstorm search words -->
    • Explore initial search results -->
    • Refine your research question, and add or remove search words based on your initial search -->
    • Conduct a more targeted search -->
    • Repeat! -->
      <--  <--  <--

Confession: I often start a research quest with a simple Google search. Keeping in mind that not all the information I find on the web is going to be reliable, Google is still a good way to get my feet wet with a topic and gather the relevant vocabulary I need. Then I can move on to a more targeted database search. 


EXAMPLE: What are some social determinants of the opioid epidemic?

Step 1: Break up this research question into two or three main concepts. Ignore extraneous words.

  • Concept #1: social determinants
  • Concept #2: opioid

Step 2: Conduct an initial search with these words, and quickly scan the results

Step 3: Using information from your initial search, add synonyms, acronyms, and variant spellings.

  • Concept #1: social determinants, risk factors, [or name some specific ones] low income, poverty
  • Concept #2: opioid, opiate, [or name some specific ones] fentanyl, oxycodone

Step 4: Conduct a more targeted web or database search.

Repeat steps as necessary!

Understand Boolean Operators

  • Even if the search engine you are using doesn't require you to enter boolean operators, it is still using them behind the scenes. It will help you to know the logic behind your search.
  • AND gives you results that include ALL of your concepts.
  • OR gives you results that include ANY of your concepts.
  • Essentially, you are searching:

(opioids OR opiates) AND (poverty OR low income)