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HSCI 307-3

Literature Review Assignment

*this guide assumes the student is familiar with searching Medline (Ovid) and CINAHL by using Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) and CINAHL subject terms rather than simple keyword searches alone. If you would like to view a database guide, or take an online tutorial in these databases, refer to the Health Sciences Database Tutorials. Or Ask a Librarian

Choosing Databases for Primary Research Articles

  • If your research question can best be answered using experimental studies, such as drug trials, you may want to start with the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CCTR).
  • If your research question can best be answered by observational studies, such as those studying health effects of exposures, or the history of exposures in relation to particular diseases, you may want to start with Medline
  • If your research question can best be answered by qualitative studies, such as those attempting to understand attitudes and experiences, you may want to start with CINAHL

Note: both CINAHL and Medline are capable of generating relevant results for ALL study designs. Only CCTR is limited to experimental studies.

Medline and CINAHL

The following is a list of some of the anticipated subject-terms that might be useful when used in combination with your topic, in the literature search for Assignment #1. Other methodological subject headings may be more appropriate for your research question and so you are encouraged to explore the subject trees in the databases for other terms if needed.

Medline (Ovid)

MeSH terms (Medical Subject Headings) for specific methodologies:

Finding Experimental Studies. Add the Publication Types window to your search page (Edit Limits) and select:

  • Clinical Trials (all), or specify Phase (I, II, III, IV)
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Controlled Trial
  • Clinical Trial (will include veterinary articles meeting the requisites for humans)

Finding Observational Studies. Use MeSH terms:

  • epidemiologic studies (explode to include, or individually select):
    • case-control studies
    • cohort studies
    • cross-sectional studies
    • seroepidemiologic studies

Finding Qualitative Studies. Use MeSH terms:

  • empirical research (explode to include, or individually select):
    • observation
      • qualitative research

Tips: try adding the Clinical Queries window to your search page (click on Edit Limits) and use the Qualitative Studies (optimized) limit. Type additional keywords in the search bar for specific qualitative methods e.g. grounded theory, discourse analysis etc.


Note: typing [your topic] AND research (as a MM exact Major Subject Heading) will be the broadest search for the purposes of the assignment.

CINAHL terms for specific methodologies:

Finding Experimental Studies. (Limit search by Publication Type/clinical trials or type clinical trials and check the box “suggest subject terms”)

General CINAHL headings:
experimental studies

Specific CINAHL terms:
clinical trials (either explode to include, or individually select sub-headings)

Finding Observational Studies.

General CINAHL terms:
non-experimental studies
quantitative studies

Specific CINAHL terms:
epidemiological research
prospective studies (use in place of cohort studies)
case control studies
crossover design
case studies
ecological research

Finding Qualitative Studies.

General CINAHL terms:
qualitative studies

Specific CINAHL terms:
grounded theory
discourse analysis
phenomenological research
ethnographic research
ethnological research
(many others)