Health Sciences (Interdisciplinary)


                            Welcome to the research guide for HSS 3332 and HSS 4108.  On this guide, you will find valuable information to aid you in locating the best available literature as it relates to issues of technology and health. 

The guide include tips on how to formulate your search strategy, highlights key databases to locate scientific information including patents, how to evaluate your sources, and citation management.

Should you have any questions or require research support, please do not hesitate to contact me or schedule a virtual research meeting.

Steps involved in the research process

Formulating your search strategy

Finding pertinent information can be tricky.   A sound search strategy will be key for your success.  It all starts with a research question or a well defined topic.

Define your research questions or topic

Formulating a research question is often the most difficult part. You need to start by selecting a topic that interests you and then define it.  Concept mapping can be useful in helping you tease out your subject, identify your key concepts, and finally formulate a strong research question or topic statement.. 

Sample research question:
  • How effective are wearable activity monitors in promoting physical activity in adult populations?

Identify the key concepts and keywords

When formulating a search strategy, you want to build a list of keywords you can include in your search.  Consider synonyms, related terms, variations in spelling.  

  • wearable activity monitor: For this concept, I can use the general terms but may also want to consider including actual products.  It all depends on what my information need is.
    • fitness tracker
    • activity tracker
  • physical activity: For this concept, I may want general terms or include specific forms of physical activity
    • exercise
    • walking
    • jogging
    • resistance training

Once you have your key concepts, you want to identify the keywords that will allow you to find the information you need.  Taking the time to brainstorm prior to searching will make your process more efficient.

Use Boolean Operators to build your search

Boolean operators are used in databases to connect your search terms to narrow or broaden your results.  Once you've identified some keywords, you can use boolean operators to help you build your search strategy.

  • AND: is used to find results that contain all of the listed terms
    • "activity monitor" AND exercise
  • OR: is used for  find results that contain at least one term
    • walk* OR run* OR exercise

Search tips and tricks

Truncation allows you to search for the variation of a keyword when you add an asterisk ( * ) at the end of a word:

  • Canad* will retrieve Canada, Canadian, Canadien, Canadienne, etc.

Wildcards  (?) substitutes for one or no symbol. Useful for variations in spelling.

  • Colo?r will retrieve Colour or Color

Quotation marks are useful when you want to search for an exact phrase:

  • neonatal care

More tips and tricks, as well as symbols used in various databases can be consulted boolean logic & search characters guide (PDF).

Draft Search Strategy

Once you have your keywords and have grouped your concepts with boolean operators, you can then draft a search strategy.

( (activity OR fitness) AND (tracker? OR monitor?) )


( "physical activity" OR walk* OR run* OR exercise )

Test your search strategy in a database and modify as necessary.

Find Journal Articles


There are many different databases you can use to locate journal articles and other documents.  Some are subject-specific whereas others are multidisciplinary.  Below, you will find a listing of key databases in health sciences and engineering that should help you locate appropriate literature regarding technology, health and society.

Specialized Databases by Discipline:

Depending on your topic, it may be useful for your to consult other subject specific databases.  Start by identifying the broad subject area of your topic (medicine, human kinetics, etc.) and then consult the appropriate discipline specific research guide.

Find Patents

What is a patent?

A patent is an agreement with a government granting a person or organization ownership of an invention, which is a product or a process, for a designated period of time within that country. This protection excludes others from making, using or selling an invention. Most industrialized countries award patents, but they do not recognize patents from other countries.

The protection is granted for a limited period, generally 20 years from the filing date of the application.

Below you will find a brief overview on how to search for patents and a short listing of some patent databases.  For more information, please consult the Patents Research Guide.

How to find patent?

Step 1: Brainstorm keywords, including synonyms and equivalent terms, to describe the invention.

Step 2: Search the keywords in a patent database to find the classification (class and subclass) of the invention.

Step 3: Use the class and subclass to search for similar patents and patent applications. Keep track of useful and non-useful patents (by patent number) to avoid duplication of efforts.

Step 4: Consult the cited references in the patents you retrieved to find additional related patents.

Patent databases

Evaluate sources of information

What are peer-reviewed articles?

Scientific articles found in scholarly journals are generally peer-reviewed, or referred, meaning an editorial committee has evaluated the research in the paper and the paper itself.  These articles are typically long, include a list of references and report new discoveries or research results.

Many databases allow you to limit your search to only peer-reviewed articles; many but not all.

Newspapers and magazines do not contain peer-reviewed articles.   Letters to the editor, comments and editorials are not peer-reviewed.

How to evaluate other sources of information?

Depending on your information need, you may need to look beyond peer-review sources.  If you need to integrate sources of grey literature (government reports, patents, dissertations and theses, etc.), these do not generally undergo a peer-review process.

The CARS Checklist (Credibility, Accuracy, Reasonableness, Support) is designed for ease of use. Few sources will meet every criterion in the list, and even those that do may not possess the highest level of quality possible. But if you learn to use the criteria in this list, you will be much better able to separate the high-quality information from the poor-quality information.

  • Credibility: Trustworthy source, the quality of evidence and argument, author’s credentials, evidence of quality control, known or respected authority, organizational support. Goal: an authoritative source; a source that supplies some good evidence that allows you to trust it.
  • Accuracy: Up-to-date, factual, detailed, exact, comprehensive, audience and purpose reflect intentions of completeness and accuracy. Goal: a source that is correct today (not yesterday); a source that gives the whole truth.
  • Reasonableness: Fair, balanced, objective, reasoned, no conflict of interest, absence of fallacies or slanted tone. Goal: a source that engages the subject thoughtfully and reasonably; a source concerned with the truth.
  • Support: Listed sources, contact information, available corroboration, claims supported, documentation supplied. Goal: a source that provides convincing evidence for the claims made; a source you can triangu-late (find at least two other sources that support it).


Source: McGraw-Hill Higher Education. (20003). The CARS Checklist (Credibility, Accuracy, Reasonableness, Support). Retrieved October 5, 2017, from

Citation management

Citation management allows you to collect, organize, annotate, share and cite books, articles, videos, theses, book chapters, reports, government publications, Web sites as well as many other sources of information easily and effectively.

Citation management tools, also known as citation managers, bibliographic managers or reference managers, also make it simpler to cite references within assignments, research papers, articles and theses, and to create bibliographies using an array of citation styles.

The library has individual guides that provide information on the following citation managers:

If you've not used a citation management tool before, we recommend trying Zotero.  Zotero is a free, multilingual, easy-to-use, yet sophisticated, tool that helps you collect, organize, cite and share your research sources.