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Where do I start?

Before beginning research, it's important to remember that research is a process.

Image of The Research Process

Searching Tips and Tricks

Analyze the Topic

The first step is to analyze the topic. Researchers generally outline exactly what they are looking for their research. What type of research is it? Knowing this will help determine the types of information you will need.


Select a Topic

For many, this may be one of the more difficult parts of the project. Your topic selection will affect every other step.

You should choose a topic that interests you since you'll be spending a lot of time with it. Generally speaking, it's much easier to do research on topics you enjoy learning about, and know something about already.  You should choose an aspect of that topic that interests you.  The topic of "skin cancer", can be discussed from a case, literature review, prevention, treatment, psychological,and even public health perspective.

If you're struggling with selecting a topic, ask a librarian for help.


Find Background Information

After choosing a topic, you'll begin formulating a thesis statement. If you are unfamiliar with your topic, you may need to research background information before you can develop a strong thesis statement. Background information can come in many forms. You may hear a librarian or physician refer to sources that contain this kind of information books and articles.

How can background information help you?

  • Identify key names, dates, events, issues, concepts, and terms associated with the topic
  • May include bibliographies that will point you to more sources

Examples of background information sources:

  • Textbooks
  • Resources such as Access Medicine and Clinical Key
  • Databases including Medline, Scopus, CINAHL, Cochrane
  • Statistical Sources

If you're unsure which type of source will be most useful for finding background information on your topic, a reference librarian can help you.


Refine the Topic

After you conduct some background research, you should be able to refine your topic. Narrowing your topic will help  give your paper precision. For example, writing a paper about cardiac arrest will often be too broad a topic. What about this topic interests you?

Here are some questions to ask that may help narrow your topic.

Who? Are there particular people you could focus on to narrow your topic?

What? What key concepts and themes arose from your background research?

Where? Can you narrow your topic geographically?

When? Can you narrow your topic to a particular time period or era?

Using PICO(T) is the most frequently used tool in health sciences to frame a research question. 

     P - population/problem/patient
     I -  intervention
     C - comparison
     O - outcome
     T - timeframe or type of study


Librarians can help you refine your topic. If you're feeling stuck, contact a librarian for help