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College of Health Professions Evidence Based Practice Portal - 2022 draft revision



U.S. Army CCDC. (2014, No. 18). Aberdeen Proving Ground Hosts STEM Expo 2014.
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This page covers the second of the five As -- acquiring information that will help you address your research question.  Once you have used the PICO(TTS) method to construct a clinical question, the next step is to identify keywords and synonyms from the concepts represented in your question.  For example, taking the PICO question

In patients with type 2 diabetes and obesity, is bariatric surgery more effective than standard medical therapy at increasing the probability of remission of diabetes?

you can isolate the keywords by the first three PICO categories:

Patient:  type 2 diabetes ; obesity
Intervention:  bariatric surgery
Comparison: therapy

As a general rule, you never want to be searching for any sort of pre-defined outcome.  Rather, let the evidence you find dictate what interventions and/or comparisons may lead to the best outcomes.  In so doing, your results become evidence-based.

When possible, it is worth developing a list of possible synonyms to try searching alongside your initial list of keywords.  Doing so will give you multiple ways of searching the same concept (or a similar concept that may still give you relevant results).  In the above example, obesity can also be described as overnutrition, and therapy could also be described as treatment.  While these terms are not precisely the same, they are similar enough that they may still offer search results that help address the question.  You can think of synonyms yourself, or use a tool such as the National Library of Medicine's Medical Subject Heading (MeSH) thesaurus to search different possible search terms.

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This page is licensed under a Creative Commons license.

Once you have developed a list of keywords and synonyms, you can search them in the databases listed below.  Here are some strategies on how you can most effectively search:
  • AND & OR:  when you connect your search terms with the words "AND" or "OR", you are asking the database to combine your search terms in specific ways to narrow or broaden your search. These words are called Boolean operators, named after George Boole, the mathematician who developed them.  For example, here is a screenshot of the CINAHL database interface with two terms entered and the dropdown menu showing the Boolean operators unfolded:
    Search example with ("bariatric surgery" OR "gastric bypass surgery") in the database's first search bar, and "type 2 diabetes" in the second search bar. The two search bars are connected by a dropdown menu displaying the Boolean operators.
    Parentheses can be used when searching as well. They function just like they do in algebra -- they say (Do this operation first) THEN do this operation. You can nest the Boolean operators into them.
  • Quotation marks: quotation marks create a phrase. A database will search the words only in the order you entered them. For example, "Obsessive Compulsive Disorder" will find those words in that order and will NOT include an article titled Obsessive focus on profit results in disorder among company managers.  When looking for information about OCD, an article with that title is clearly irrelevant.
  • Truncation: when you use the * (shift / 8 on the keyboard) you are asking the database to return all the words that begin with the same letters. For example, psych* will find results that include the terms psychology, psychiatry, psychologist, psychiatrist, psychiatric, etc.

Armed with these strategies, you can search one or more of the following databases for evidence in the medical literature:

Though they are the most directly relevant to finding evidence-based health information, these databases are not the only health science databases available through the WSU University Libraries.  A comprehensive list of the health science databases may be found here.  The Trip Medical Database is available online as well.  WSU does not have an institutional subscription to it, but sections of it are accessible for free, and it does offer high-quality EBP-related information.

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This page is licensed under a Creative Commons license. Some content above modified from Rachel Arteaga, CSU Chico.

After you have conducted one of more searches, ideally you will see an icon that indicates the full-text of an article is available electronically, either as a PDF or as a webpage.  If you don't see an icon linking you to the full text, you might see the 360Link icon:

360 Link icon

Clicking this icon will cause one of two things to happen: one, if the full text of the article is available from a database other than the one you are searching, the 360Link icon with take you to that second database, where you can access the full text of the article.  If, by contrast, the WSU University Libraries does not have a digital copy of the article anywhere, you will receive a dialogue box allowing you to search the University Libraries' catalog to see if we have a print copy of the article.  If no print copy is available either, the dialogue box offers you the option to request the article through Interlibrary loan.

Interlibrary loan, or ILL, is a service that allows you to borrow articles (and books, and other items) from other libraries if they are not available within the WSU University Libraries.  You can access the ILL service via the 360Link button when searching a database.  Alternately, you can just log into Interlibrary Loan with your myWSU ID and password to request a copy of an article or book. Articles are emailed to you and requests can usually be filled within a day or so. It's free!

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This page is licensed under a Creative Commons license.

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