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Advanced Health Sciences Research: Starting Points

This guide is designed to assist Nursing and Health Sciences students with research projects.

Define Your Topic

Juhan Sonin - FlickrA well defined topic will ease your search for information. To focus your information search, it is often helpful to put your topic in the form of a question. Your research question may develop or change as you carry out preliminary research.

Start by considering the following factors to narrow your topic: Who, What, Where, and When.

Who could indicate the subjects of research nurse, a patient, or a family or allied health colleague.

What could be a disease, therapy, or a problem to address.

Where might include a physical setting (hospital, residence, community) or an anatomical location (heart, lower limbs).

When could denote a point in history (World War II), a time frame (in the last 10 years), or 'when' in the course of therapy (newly diagnosed, palliation).

Some examples include:

How do patients cope with diabetes? (who and what)

How has home care for seniors evolved over time? (who, what and when)

What can nurses do to effectively communicate in a busy clinical setting? (who,what, and where)

Which therapies should be administered to patients at home during the first months after a stroke? (who, what, when, and where)

Perform Preliminary Research

An initial literature search for information using library and web resources will give you an idea of how your topic has been covered in the literature. Performing preliminary research may also allow you to refine your topic based on your interests or available research.

  • Remember to keep a record of the terms and databases you use as you proceed with your search. These notes can help you track your research progress and history.
  • Your initial search might retreive many results which can be daunting. Quickly review article abstracts and book descriptions to determine whether a specific resource is suitable for your research. 
  • Refine your topic as necessary: Weed out search results that are irrelevant, or modify your search strategy to ensure that search results are more relevant.
  • Not finding any information? Consider modifying your research question and topic.
  • Contact the library reference desk for assistance with research.

Subject Guide

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