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Why do I need background information?

Background information can provide:

  • Broad overview of the subject
  • Definitions of the topic
  • Introduction to key issues
  • Names of people who are authorities in the subject field
  • Keywords and subject-specific vocabulary terms that can be used for database searches
  • Bibliographies that lead to additional resources

Search Basics

Before you begin searching for background information, it is a good idea to identify the main concepts of your topic and write down all the keywords and phrases that describe your topic. 

Using a combination of the concepts and synonyms you have identifed you will now complete searches in four different resources. Do NOT type a complete sentence into the search box; use the identified keywords and leave out words such as outcomes, comparison, etc..

Finding Synonyms

Including synonyms, related terms (including generic and trade names of drugs), and abbreviations in a search will change the results/citations retrieved; sometimes broadening it, sometimes narrowing it.

You can locate synonyms and related terms by looking at known articles and their reference lists, asking your mentor, and/or completing preliminary searches.

Boolean Operators

Combine keywords and phrases using Boolean Operators.

  • Combine different concepts with AND to retrieve articles that mention both of your keywords.
  • Combine related concepts or synonyms with OR.
  • Use NOT to exclude keywords from your search results.