Nutrition and Food Science: Address a topic

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Start <image, public domain>Before you start actually searching for information for your assignment, first:

1. Understand your topic and task
2. Identify main research concepts and alternative terms
3. Connect research concepts to form a search strategy

The video below shows the full process.

Understand your topic

You must have a broad understanding of your topic before you can search for information or write your assignment. Consider:

  • Thumbs up <image, public doman>What do you need to do?  

  • What do you know? Or need to explore further?

  • Do you need to define any terms?

  • What types of evidence do you need?

  • Does information need to be current?

  • Do any theories apply to your topic?

  • Do you need facts and figures, or statistics?

Breaking down your question

Your assignment question / topic has been provided

Organisng your ideas and mapping your search can be useful when thinking about how you are going to search. Watch the following video to see how to do this.

[Watch low quality version of video]

You can easily create a mind map using Microsoft Word or Power Point. Below are some web tools that you may want to try:

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Define terms, get background information

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Identify research concepts and alternative terms

Example question: Does food advertising contribute to childhood obesity?

The main concepts in your question form the foundation of your search:

  • food advertising
  • childhood obesity

To cover the range of terminology used in the literature, you must also identify any synonyms or similar keywords for each concept:

  • food advertising, fast food advertising, junk food advertising
  • childhood, child, children
  • overweight, obese, body mass index 30+, bmit30+

Also consider:

  • Plurals, different word forms (advert vs adverts),
  • Different spellings (celiac vs coeliac), and hyphenated words (fast food advertising vs fast-food advertising)
  • Acronyms (body mass index vs BMI)

Once you have your list of terms for each concept, you can combine them to create a search strategy.

Connect research concepts to form a search strategy

First, simplify your search. Use truncation, wildcards and phrases to cover word variations:


finds unlimited characters after the symbol

must be used at the end of a word/wordstem


finds obese, obesity


finds zero or one character to replace the symbol

can be used anywhere in a word


finds advert, adverts



finds advertising, advertizing

   " "

keeps two or more words together in the entered order

"Food advertising"

Now connect your remaining terms using AND, OR.

  • Use OR to connect different terms within the same concept

  • Use AND to connect each concept.

  For example:

"food advertising" OR "fast food advertising" OR "junk food advertising"
overweight OR obese OR "body mass index 30+" OR bmit30+

Need more info? Check out our "How to" guides below.

Next steps

Find Evidence <image, public domain>Now you have finalised your search strategy, you are ready to start finding the evidence. Click the image to learn how.