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HSCI 345: Public Health Issues

Tips for Narrowing Your Topic


  • Narrow your focus to formulate a research question
  • Brainstorm related keywords and concepts
  • Reference resources can help you select and narrow your topic
  • Can you narrow your topic to a specific
    • Time period?
    • Event?
    • Geographical area?
    • Race, ethnicity, gender, or age group?

Search Strategy


Watch this video to learn how to navigate OneSearch to find materials available through the University Library.

Think outside the box.

Thought bubble inside Internet box.

Before you search, consider the fundamental requirements of the information you seek:

What is your topic? Are there multiple terms to describe it? Use Button labeled "Advanced Search"  to search a specific topic, OR look for your topic (or similar terms) under the 'Topic' filter in the "Refine my results" toolbar of One Search.

Image of the "refine my results" toolbar with three "Articles", "Civil Rights Activists", and "Peer-reviewed Journals" filters applied.

What kinds of sources are required? Check your assignment prompt and set up Advanced Search to display specific formats of information such as books, journal articles, videos, etc. You can also apply the filters from the "Refine my results" toolbar. 

Must your sources be peer-reviewed? Look for the term "peer-reviewed" in your results list, OR filter your results to display only articles from peer-reviewed journals.

How recent must your sources be? Three to seven years is a general window for recent sources. Sciences will be shorter. Use the left toolbar to limit the years for which your source must be published.

Boolean Operators

Boolean operators are words (or, and, not) used to connect search terms to expand or narrow a search within a database to locate relevant information.

It is helpful to diagram the effects of these operators:

women or females

women or females

Or retrieves records that contain anyof the search terms. It expands the search. Therefore, use "or" in between terms that have the same meaning (synonyms) or equal value to the search.

women and media

women and media

And retrieves records that contain all of the search terms. It narrows or limits the search. Therefore, use "and" in between terms that are required to make the search specific.

image not weight

Not eliminates records that contain a search term. It narrows or limits the search. Therefore, use "not" in front of a term to ensure that the search will not include that term. Warning: Some databases use "and not" instead of "not." Check the database help screen.


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