Example search

Following the ideas from the ‘planning your search’ page. Here is an example of how I would explore my topic and plan my search. There are useful hints and tips at the bottom of the page.

What is my topic or question?

Investigate the effect of chocolate on the health of young women

What are the keywords that I need to use to search?

Health / Chocolate / Young Women

Are there any other keywords I might use?

Mindmap showing three keywords explored.

Example keyword mindmap

Depending on your learning style, you might find it useful to do a mindmap, as above, or organise your information in a tree view or in a table. Below are two examples, click on the images for a full size example. Use the style that works best for you.

Tree view example, with different branches for different keywords

Example Keyword Tree View

Example table divided into a column for each of the keywords

Example keyword table

















What type of information do I need?

  • Statistics – how many people have diabetes in the UK? Can I find the number of teenagers with diabetes?
  • National Guidelines – NICE guidelines for care of diabetic patients, health promotion information for obese patients. Care pathways.
  • Research – Some good research articles looking at teenagers’ experiences of managing their diabetes, articles on obesity.
  • Information for the public – what information are they given? what is the health promotion message?

 What are the limits to my search?

  • I want UK information, from the last 10 years, referring to young women (20 – 30 years old).


 Useful hints and tips:

When you have explored your keywords there are some shortcuts that you can use to improve your search.

For example, some databases you can use truncation when your keywords have the same stem.

e.g. if you search for wom* you will get results for woman and women

You can also use wildcards when you want to search for a word which has more than one spelling (remember you should search for U.S. spellings as well). Wildcards use both, by replacing the letter with a symbol such as ?

e.g. if you search for behavi?r you will get results for behaviour (UK spelling) and behavior (US spelling)

You can also put key phrases into quotation marks, so that the database searches for the whole phrase rather than separate words:

e.g. “diabetes mellitus”


Refining your search (Boolean operators)

When you start your search it is best to start simply – searching for one of your keywords (the main issue), for example health. Then you can use your other keywords to refine (narrow) down your results. You can do this using AND, OR and NOT. More information is available on the Overview of Literature Searching page.