This section will walk you through exercises to develop a research topic and get a sense of the availability of literature on that topic. If you prefer to watch a recording, these concepts were covered in the November 2022 librarian live session.
At this stage of your project, you are executing scoping searches.
Scoping searches help you:
get an idea of how much literature there is on a topic
find prominent authors and papers in the field
identify gaps in the current scholarly conversation
refine your research question
This is in contrast to comprehensive or systematic searching, which you will conduct once your topic is finalized.
Join synonyms together with ORs and major concepts together with ANDs. If you have three main ideas in your research topic, a search strategy could look like this: (concept A or A synonym or A acronym) AND (concept B or B synonym or B acronym) AND (concept C). It's important to include a variety of terms since authors refer to similar ideas by different names - you don't want to miss the perfect paper because somebody called it CBT and you wrote out "cognitive behavioral therapy"!
No one database holds the entirety of the biomedical literature. While PubMed is a great tool, it only holds about 5,000 journals. Meanwhile, Scopus has ~30k across a range of disciplines. The size of both tools have different affordances: PubMed's limited scope means each article is tagged with subject headings, study design, population characteristics, and more that make finding extremely relevant papers possible quickly; meanwhile, Scopus's broad content facilitates tracking citations, allowing you to track the development of the scholarly conversation of a topic over time.
Work through these questions to refine your research topic and reflect on your work: