Health: Plan your search

Developing your own question or topic

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

Try using one of the following instruction words to help you formulate your final question:

  • Analyse e.g. Analyse if...
  • Argue e.g. Argue whether...
  • Compare e.g. Compare the...
  • Describe e.g. Describe how...
  • Discuss e.g. Discuss the...
  • Explain e.g. Explain how...

Find more instruction words on page 2-3 of this guide:

It is important to try and focus your question as much as possible. Watch the following videos, in order, to help you with this process:

[Low quality version of video available]


Plan your search

Before you start searching for information for your assignment it is important to:

  • identify main concepts in your question or topic
  • explore alternative terms you can search on
  • think about how you are going to connect your concepts to form a search strategy

Watch the following videos to help you with developing a search strategy. [Low quality version of video available]

Example question: Does an improvement in drinking water quality improve the incidence of cholera in Haiti and Papua New Guinea?

Some key steps:

  1. Define any terms you are unsure of. Try an introductory book, dictionary, encyclopedia, or handbook.
  2. Identify main concepts in your question. These will form the foundation of your search. For example:
    • Concept 1: drinking water quality - there are 2 parts to this concept drinking water AND quality
    • Concept 2: cholera
    • Concept 3: Haiti
    • Concept 4: Papua New Guinea
  3. Identify any synonyms or similar keywords for each main concept. For example: drinking water or potable water
  4. Consider any word plurals, different word forms ( drinking vs drinks), different word spellings (celiac vs coeliac), key acronyms (BMI vs Body Mass Index), and hyphenated words (gluten-intolerance vs gluten intolerance).

Quick guides:


In the collection