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Research Guides@Tufts

Community Health 1

Getting started

1. Identify the scope of your topic

  • Sample public health problem: AIDS in people who take drugs intravenously
  • Tip: Your topic will likely evolve as you search, and you will need to adjust the scope based on the number of results you find
  • Tip: It is helpful to look for background information on your topic from resources like Medine Plus or the World Health Organization's fact sheetto help you identify specific aspects or areas of research you'd like to pursue

2. Develop a list of Keywords:

  • Keywords are the important nouns from your topic
  • Tip: You will find more (and sometimes better) keywords as you search by scanning titles and abstracts of the articles you find. Adjust your search accordingly!
  • Tip: Add in keywords like "epidemiology", "risk factors", or "morbidity" to find information about these aspects of your public health problem
Main keyword Other keywords (synonyms)
AIDS "acquired immunodeficiency syndrome"
intravenous injecting

3. Combine your keywords in a meaningful way

  • Use the word "OR" to combine all synonyms and use the word "AND" to narrow your search. After combining all of your keywords, your search strategy will look something like this:
    drug* AND (inject* OR intravenous) AND (AIDS OR "acquired immunodeficiency syndrome")
  • Tip: Put quotation marks around phrases
  • Tip: Use an asterisk at the end of a word to capture all alternate endings (for example, use inject* to find inject, injection, injecting, etc.) 

Finding epidemiological and scientific information about your topic

1. What is a primary source?

  • Any material that reports the results of original research. For example, a journal article reporting the results of a study, or the original data itself that was collected
  • Tip: If a journal article has a "methods" and "results" section, it is likely a primary source

2. Choose an appropriate search engine, such as:

  • JumboSearch - focuses on Tufts libraries' collections and includes a variety of sources across disciplines. You can limit results to Articles only.
  • PubMed - focuses on scholarly, peer reviewed journal articles in the health sciences.
  • Global Health - focuses on scholarly, peer reviewed journal articles with international coverage of public health literature
  • Google Scholar - focuses on scholarly, peer reviewed journal articles across many disciplines.

3. Example: tips for using PubMed to find primary sources that report on health sciences research.

  • PubMed contains journal articles having to do with all aspects of public health, medicine, and the life sciences
  • Once in PubMed, type your search in the main box
  • Sort by "best match" so that the first thing you see are the most relevant results:

  • Tip: When you find an article that you'd like to read, click on the title and scroll down the page to the "Publication types, MeSH terms, and grant support" section. Here you will find a list of hyperlinked MeSH (Medical Subject Headings) terms. By clicking on the terms that are relevant to your topic, you can find more articles! Note that some of the terms include subheadings like "epidemiology", "transmission", or "statistics":


  • Tip: You can see who has cited an article and find more recent research on your topic! Just copy & paste the title of the article into Google Scholar. Click the "cited by" link under the title in your results list to see where it's been cited:

Finding data about specific populations

Local MA data:

USA data:

International data: