Nursing: NURS 3044: Research Methodologies

Assignment 2: Part 1&2

Assignment 2 requires you to research and find background information and evidence. Please refer the learnonline course site for assessment instructions.

In order to research and locate relevant information you need to:

  1. Apply and analyse your assignment topic using the PICO/PIO framework
  2. Develop your Search Strategy
  3. Search Health databases
  4. Evaluate and select resources
  5. Reference resources using Harvard UniSA style

Note that the Harvard UniSA referencing style must be used for this assignment.

1. Apply the PICO Framewok

It is best practice to identify concepts and keywords from your assignment topic prior to searching.

Use the PICO or PIO framework to break down your concepts into more precise groups by identifying your Population of Interest; Intervention; Comparison; and Outcomes. If you have not specified a Comparison, just leave it out- this is a PIO framework.

Lets use the PICO or PIO framework to break down this example question:

Is cannabis more effective than non-steroidal anti-inflammatories to reduce pain in adults with chronic pain?


P (Population)

adults with chronic pain

I (Intervention) cannabis
C (Comparison) non-steroidal anti-inflammatories
O (Outcomes)

reduced pain

2. Develop your Search Strategy

Next step is to develop a list of key words. To do this, take your PICO concepts and consider alternative words for each. 

Lets identify words with a similar meaning for the keywords identified in the example question:

Is cannabis more effective than non-steroidal anti-inflammatories to reduce pain in adults with chronic pain?



adult, adults

chronic pain, severe pain, chronic inflammation


cannabis, marijuana, THC, tetrahydrocannabinol, cannaboid, cannaboids


non-steroidal anti-inflammatories, NSAIDS, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, nonsteroidal antiinflammatories, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory, nonsteroidal antiinflammatories


reduce pain, pain reduction, reducing pain, manage pain, pain management, managing pain

 Now combine your terms with AND / OR. You always combine terms that mean similar things with OR and terms that mean different things (different PICO concepts) with AND.

Using our example above:




adult OR adults

chronic pain OR severe pain OR chronic inflammation


cannabis OR marijuana OR THC OR tetrahydrocannabinol OR cannaboid OR cannaboids


non-steroidal anti-inflammatories OR NSAIDS OR NSAID OR nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories OR nonsteroidal antiinflammatories OR non-steroidal anti-inflammatory OR nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory OR nonsteroidal antiinflammatory


reduced pain OR pain reduction OR reduce pain OR manage pain OR managing pain OR pain management

Use of truncation, wild cards and phrases can make your search more effective.

  • Use truncation (*) to search for word endings: cannab* finds cannabis, cannaboid, cannaboids

  • Use wildcards (?) to search for different spellings (zero/one letters/symbols only): colo?r finds colour, color

  • Use double quotes (" ") to keep phrases together: "chronic inflammation"

For our example:

"chronic pain" OR "severe pain" OR "chronic inflammation"

cannab* OR marijuana OR THC OR tetrahydrocannabinol

"non?steroidal anti?inflammator*" OR NSAID*

"reduce* pain" OR "manag* pain" OR "pain management"

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3. Search Databases

Here are suggested databases to search:

  • Emcare (via Ovid)  (discipline specific/not all peer reviewed)

  • Informit Health databases (discipline specific – and contains Australian material not found anywhere else/not all peer reviewed)

  • MEDLINE (discipline specific/all peer reviewed)

  • Scopus (multidisciplinary/not all peer reviewed)

  • Web of Science (multidisciplinary/all peer reviewed

  • PubMed (discipline specific/all peer reviewed)

Strategies that you are learning in this tutorial can be applied when you are searching in other databases.

Limits and filters may be applied to reduce your search results if you have too many.  Some useful limits include 'English Language' or date. Note the following about using limits:

  • Using a limit only applies to the database you are currently searching. If you have selected more than one, only the results from the filtered database will display.

  • If the database is bibliographic (abstract) only – it won’t find any full-text. Using a full text limiter will therefore yield 0 results.

If you limit your results, there is always the potential that you could miss some important/useful research. The video below will demonstrate how to apply limits and filters in PubMed. Most databases are similar.

The full text of a journal article can be found if the Library has access to the journal online. This can be done by using either the PDF link (if provided) or the 'Find it' function.

If you cannot find the full text of an article it may be because the University does not have access to it. If you can’t find the article you may need to find an alternative by looking back through your initial results.

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4. Evaluate and Select Resources

Once you have identified potential articles, you need to start evaluating them to identify which articles are the most relevant.

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After you've looked at the title and abstract, go through the full text of the article to make sure it is of good quality. It is important to evaluate before you use it in your academic work.


Consider the following points when reviewing each paper:

  1. How well does each paper match:
    • your research question?
    • your systematic review methodology e.g. PICO?
    • your search terms?
  2. Where does each paper sit in the hierarchy of evidence that you are using, for example:
    • meta-analysis?
    • systematic review?
    • other?
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Need help referencing? Follow the roadmap!

More help:

Image [Courtesy of UniSA Library]Store and organise all your references in one place throughout your studies.

In particular you can:

  • organise references in groups
  • quickly add (directly export) references into your 'Library'
  • easily find the full text
  • automatically create in-text citations and a reference list when writing assignments

The Library supports EndNote:

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Writing Academic Skills

View the Student Engagement Unit's Academic Skills website for help writing your assignment, or to make an appointment with SEU staff.