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HLTH 115: Introduction to Health Studies (HC)

Health Studies 115: Introduction to Health Studies (West/Montgomery) Spring 2018

How to Get Started

You will want to turn to library (and beyond) resources at multiple stages of your project or paper. An initial search around your topic or an idea you're interested in can help you develop your ideas further and come up with research questions to drive further research. 

You may choose to write about Ebola, for example. But what about it? Broad, multidisciplinary databases can help you find out what the important issues or conversations around Ebola might be. Try using Tripod to find topical edited volumes; these multi-author collections showcase a wide range of disciplinary contributions to topics of global importance. 

For example, you might become interested in issues of transmission, the role of poverty and international humanitarian aid, or how fear of Ebola impacts representations of Africa. Give yourself plenty of time to explore. Once you have narrowed your focus, you can search again with a more specific set of keywords or utilizing different facets (or filters) to restrict your search by date or resource type. 

You might find everything you need in Tripod and journal databases, but what if you don't? You can use the same search strategies in WorldCat to find more. You can then request items through E-ZBorrow or Interlibrary Loan. Note that E-Z Borrow is the first place to look for books not in Tripod. It usually takes just three days! Books not in E-Z Borrow can come from Interlibrary Loan (ILL) which may take as little as four or five days to arrive. Use Article Requests for journal articles not available in the Tri-Co for delivery in 1-10 days. 

Sources from the Web can be useful, too. These Web Searching tips can get you started. 

Don't despair if you aren't seeing the results you'd hoped for! Try different sets of keywords in different databases. Research is an iterative and experimental process!

Brainstorm Search Words


Can weight loss help control cardiovascular disease?

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

  • Concept #1: weight loss
  • Concept #2: control
  • Concept #3: cardiovascular disease

Step 2: Brainstorm synonyms, acronyms, and variant spellings.

  • Concept #1: weight loss
  • Concept #2: control, prevention
  • Concept #3: cardiovascular disease, heart disease

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:​

(weight loss) AND (control OR prevention) AND (cardiovascular disease OR heart disease)

Revise and Repeat

  • Information research is a fluid, iterative process.
  • As you do some initial searching, your research question may change a number of times before finally solidifying in your mind.
  • Be willing to alter your initial search strategy as well. The more your explore, the more avenues you will discover. Swap out search words, follow authors of interest, and let references lead to you new materials. 

Evaluating Secondary Sources

See the Princeton University Library's useful discussion of primary versus secondary sources.

As you conduct your search for secondary material, keep in mind the following questions to help you select high-quality and relevant resources:

  • Evidence - What kind of secondary material do you need to support your argument?
  • Audience - For whom is the resource intended?  Researchers, undergraduates, the general public?
  • Discipline - Is the resource written from within a particular discipline?  For example, is the book or article meant for historians, literary scholars, art historians?  You will want to consider this question once you have found resources, but it is also a useful question to ask about your own argument.  Knowing your own approach will help you to know where to look—in which databases and so on—for secondary literature.
  • Expertise - What is the author's training?  Has the book or article been reviewed by other experts in the field (i.e., has it been peer-reviewed)?
  • Timeliness - When was the book or article published?  Recently published works will reflect current scholarship on a topic.
  • Objectivity - Does the author present a balanced point point of view?  In other words, does the author present competing interpretations fairly or are alternative readings misrepresented in service of the author's agenda?  Does the tone seem objective or overly emotional?
  • Documentation - Does the author adequately cite other literature relevant to his or her argument?  Of what quality are these citations?  (If the author includes quality secondary sources, you can use his or her bibliography to find further resources for your own project.)

See this resource for further information on evaluating secondary literature:

Evaluating Sources (Purdue Online Writing Lab)

Country-specific Google searches

Also try country-specific searches in Google. For example:

aids ghana statistics

aids ghana statistics (to limit to U.S. government sites; also try or for sites of U.S. educational institutions or organizations)

aids ghana statistics (search websites originating in Ghana)

See other country codes here