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Health Services Management: Plan Your Search

This guide will help health services management students find relevant resources for their studies.

Why plan you search?


At university you are expected to find and use scholarly information:

  • in your assignments
  • to prepare for class
  • to explore new theories and ideas

Scholarly information refers to resources such as books and journal articles. To find scholarly information you need to search in a particular way to get good results.

Use this page to learn how to plan your search to find the best quality scholarly information sources. This kind of searching is best suited to finding journal articles in databases and on google scholar.

Step 1: Identify your key concepts


Before you find any information, identify the main ideas (or key concepts) in your assignment question or research topic


Investigate the effectiveness of telephone follow ups in reducing hospital readmission for individuals with a chronic disease. 

The key concepts are: 

Telephone Hospital Readmission Chronic Disease

Step 2: Brainstorm keywords & synonyms


Different words can be used to describe the same concept.

Think of other words that could be used to describe your key concepts. Synonyms should also be included. 


Telephone Hospital Readmission Chronic Disease





chronic condition

chronic illness

lightening bolt


If you are having trouble thinking of synonyms, try using some of these resources:

  • Google & Wikipedia
  • Dictionaries & Thesauri
  • Reference books & Encyclopedias

If you have already found some useful resources, try looking at them to get ideas for keywords you can use!

Step 3: Build your search 


Once you have all your keywords, you need to combine them to form your search.

Have a look through the tabs below to see how you can combine your search terms and build a search!

Use Boolean Operators to combine your keywords & synonyms into a search. You can build multiple searches using different synonyms & keywords. Watch the video to learn how.

Combining our keywords is important, but there are other tricks we can use to improve our results. Have a look at the video in the next tab to learn about more search strategies.

Now that we have combined our terms, let's use some more advanced tricks to improve our search.

The most important advanced search techniques you will use are:

  • Phrase Searching

You should use phrase searching when you are searching for an exact phrase that is two or more words long.

For example, if I searched for chronic illness without quotation marks, I will get results for chronic and illness as well as chronic illness. However, if I search for "chronic illness" I will only get results with those two words mentioned together.

  • Truncation

Truncation tells the database to find all possible endings of a word. This trick is very useful if you have many similar sounding keywords. For example,  child* will find child, children, childbearing or childlike.

However, you need to be careful where you place the *. If you truncate a term too early, you may also be including many irrelevant terms.

Now that we know all about the different search strategies we can use, let's see how it will look when applied to some keywords.

First, use OR to combine synonyms & similar words:

Key Concept Keywords & Synonyms Search



(telephone OR
telemedicine OR

Then, use AND to combine your key concepts together: 

(telephone OR telemedicine OR telehealth) AND
("hospital readmission" OR "hospital readmittance") AND
("chronic disease" OR "chronic condition" OR "chronic illness")

For search terms that are two words or more, put them in quotation marks to make sure that the database searches for those words together.

Step 4: Start searching


You will need to find different types of information during your studies. These may include: 

  • Books & book chapters
  • Journal articles
  • Newspaper articles
  • Standards & statistics
  • Reports
  • Grey literature

The type of information you are looking for will determine where you search, and how you search. 

Using the steps above will help you find most of these information types.

Having a good search strategy is important, but it is also essential that you search for information in the right places.The library catalogue is a good place to start and a good place to look for books. If you are looking for journal articles, you should try search in one of our databases! 

Explore this study guide or ask a librarian to discover more. 

Step 5: Review your results


Not all the information you get from a search will be useful. A successful search will show results relevant to your topic. If your results are not relevant go back and try different keywords in your search.

Find relevant results by checking the: 

Even if your information is relevant, it might not be good quality. Check if it passes the C.R.A.P. test before you use it.