Skip to Main Content

Academic Research: Planning Search

Academic Research
  Planning a Literature Search


Graph by Dr. Tmanova 

  Research Question Formulation

Formulate study research question into searchable question for exploration of published scholarly literature

Research Question Types

  • What are the conditions and characteristics of studied phenomena? 
  • What is the effect of variables at studied conditions for studied phenomena?
  • Do variables at studied conditions affect other variables at studied conditions for studied phenomena? 

Study Design Research Questions

  • Qualitative research questions
  • Quantitative research questions
  • Mixed research questions  
  Clinical Question Formulation

Finding the best evidence information

Think in an evidence-based way - ASSESS, ASK, AQUIRE, APPRAISE, APPLY

  • Identify clinical problem
  • Address important searchable questions
  • Identify appropriate resources
  • Design search strategy
  • Conduct search
  • Analyze literature and assess the evidence
  • Apply 

Design searchable question using an evidence-based approach


P - Patient Information (e.g., patient, population)
I - Intervention (e.g., medical, surgical, other)
C- Comparison (e.g., alternative, other)
O - Outcome (e.g., clinical outcome)
T - Time (e.g., follow-up time)

Inquiries for searchable question formulation 

Therapy -  the validity of the preventative or therapeutic effect, validity results (e.g., RCT), applicability for patient care. Also, to determine the effect of medical, surgical, or preventative interventions on patient-important outcomes (e.g., symptoms, function) (LHH, RRR, ARR, NNT, OR)
Study types: RCT

Diagnosis - the validity of the diagnostic study, the applicability of diagnostic test for patient care (sensitivity, specificity, precision, likelihood ration) (LR, OR)
Study types: prospective, blind controlled trial comparison to a gold standard 

Prognosis - the validity of the study results, the importance of the results, the applicability of results for patient care (determining the prognostic course)
Study types: cohort study, case-control, case series, or case report

Etiology/Harm - the validity of harm study, the importance of the results, treatment course (NNH, PEER)
Study types: RCT, case-control, cohort studies 

  Constructing a Literature Search

Natural Language Method

  • Keywords, keyterms, concept, phrase
  • Acronyms 
  • Synonyms 
  • Term version (singular, plural)
  • Spelling (native and international)
  • Related terms from other subject disciplines
  • Boolean Operators
  • AND, OR, NOT
  • Truncation
  • Nesting

 MeSH Method

  • Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) - NLM thesaurus and hierarchal vocabulary used for indexing, cataloging, and searching biomedical or health information
  • MeSH on Demand - identifies MeSH terms in the text, identify the similar articles associated with the submitted text
  • MeSH Browser - search using word and substring search methods
  • MeSH Ontology - NLM controlled vocabulary thesaurus used for indexing articles for PubMed.
  • PubMed Advanced Search Builder - search builder with advanced features

 Note: Training content is at Self-Guide Learning. Schedule Consultation on finding associated resources and literature search. 

  Searching for Scholarly Publication

Searching Authors & Journals 

Use filter to search all authors in manuscript indexed in PubMed

  • PubMed - apply filter author manuscript[filter]
  • PMC - apply filter author manuscript[filter]
  • PubMedReMiner - search for authors, journals 

 Note: Training content is at Self-Guide Learning. Schedule Consultation on finding associated resources and literature search. 


Disclaimer: The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense, Defense Health Agency of non-U.S. Government sites or the information, products, or services contained therein. Although the Darnall Medical Library, WRNMMC may or may not use these sites as additional distribution channels for Department of Defense information, it does not exercise editorial control over all of the information that you may find at these locations. Such hyperlinks are provided consistent with the stated purpose of this website.

Darnall Medical Library | Walter Reed NMMC | Building 1, Room 3458 | 8955 Wood Road | Bethesda, MD 20889 | 301-295-1184/85 | Open Monday-Friday, 0700-1630

After-hours access to the library is available to WRNMMC Staff via the CDO at 301-295-4611.