Pharmacological Sciences: Plan your search


You need to have a broad understanding of your topic or research question to help you search for information and write your assignment. Consider the following before you start searching for information:

What do you already know about your topic? What do you need to explore further?

Do you need to define any terms or get an overview? Use the course readings, handbooks, encyclopedias, dictionaries or introductory books.

What types of information do you need (e.g: peer reviewed articles, books, reports, protocols, guidelines etc.)?
Does information need to be current?
Do any theories apply to your topic?
Do you need facts and figures? Try a reliable website or a relevant database.

Which parts of your argument need references as supporting evidence?  

What are the main concepts in your topic or research question? These will help you decide which keywords to use when searching.

Quick guides for more help getting started:

If you are required to decide on a research question it is important to pick a topic that interests you if you can.

Focusing your question

Brainstorming and organising your ideas can be useful when trying to form a research question. This will also help you focus your question, and your search search process. Watch the following videos to help you with this process:

TIP: Even though these videos do not use health topics the same theory applies across all disciplines.

[Watch low quality version of video].


Plan your search

Before you start searching for information you should plan your search. Watch these 2 videos for help:

Facts and Myths [Source: purchased from Dollar photo club,]Some key steps to think about when searching for information on your research question.

  1. Define any terms you are unsure of. Try a introductory book, dictionary, encyclopedia, or handbook.
  2. Identify main concepts in your question. These will form the foundation of your search.
  3. Identify any synonyms or similar keywords for each main concept.
  4. Consider any:
    • word plurals (drug vs drugs)
    • different word forms (pathologic vs pathological)
    • different word spellings (celiac vs coeliac / hemostasis vs haemostasis)
    • key acronyms (BMI vs Body Mass Index), and
    • hyphenated words (gluten-intolerance vs gluten intolerance).

Chemistry tubes [By H Valan, Transparent chemistry glass tubes filled with substances, 2008, Source Flickr:, CC BY 2.0,]


Need to define a term?

Dictionaries, encyclopedias, handbooks and introductory texts can be good for finding background information and overviews on your topic.

Tip: Find more by searching the Library Catalogue using the keywords: dictionary, handbook or encyclopedia.