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Medical databases are organized collections of health data, stored electronically and accessible from a computer. Each serves a unique function, yet most are integrated and work together.

The Research Question

Research is often conducted to answer a question. The research question must be well formulated to provide focus on a topic that is being investigated effectively. Any search in a database requires analysis of the research question. 

Identifying your concepts

Identifying Concepts

Typing the entire research question into a database search bar is not the way databases are designed to be searched. This is because the database utilizes fields and their data values for searching. For each concept, the user must find subject headings and generate keywords that are representative of the concepts.  

What are the primary concepts in the research question? Consider what group(s) you will be discussing in your research. Think about what the treatment(s), therapies, intervention(s), or program(s) to be examined. Examine the various factors to be investigated that relate to those treatments/therapies/interventions/programs for the selected population. This process reflects the formulation of the research question itself.


Example research question:

Are anti-smoking campaigns effective interventions for e-cigarette use among high school students?

In the question above there are three major concepts: anti-vaping smoking; e-cigarettes; and high school students.

Over the next few pages you will find out how to search for subject headings and generate keywords for each highlighted concept. The next step is to put your subject headings and keywords together with Boolean operators, which you will use to combine concepts together.

The difference between subject headings and keywords