Getting Started on Your Research

    Develop Question & Scope | Outline | Locate Literature | Citation Management Tools | Locate Data

    Develop Research Question & Scope

    1. Describe the main topic as specifically as you can, then focus it by considering these factors:
      1. What are the age groups, geographic locations, and/or socioeconomic considerations that you want to include?
      2. Will comparisons be made with other diseases, conditions, methods?
      3. What potential outcomes do you want to consider? (cost reduction, improved communication, etc.)
    2. Think about the scope of what you need--a few recent articles from major journals or a comprehensive search of publications? Do you need evidence-based information from clinical trials?

    Draft an outline of your paper

    1. Introduction: include the premise of your research.
    2. Body: include points you plan to address.
    3. Conclusion: recap your “findings.”
    4. Gather and collect references using a citation management program like EndNote.
    5. Write your paper and cite your sources.

    Locate Literature 

    • Searching for Books
    • Selecting Databases
      • Emory Libraries subscribes to over 1,000 databases, listed on the Database page. Users can limit results by:
        • Searching by keyword
        • Filtering by subject
    • Grey Literature
      • Grey literature is any documentation that might be relevant for your literature search that isn't produced by a commercial publisher; it often isn't found in a database. Government documents, reports, white papers, news articles, dissertations are all types of grey literature.
      • Please see a list of selected grey literature sources on our Planning A Systematic Review page.

    Citation Management Tools

    Locate Data

    General Concepts | Databases to Search | Specific Databases

    General Concepts:

    1. Decide on your topic and  determine its scope. What factors do you plan to address in your research?
    2. Seek databases and resources which are appropriate for your research.
    3. Reach out to a Librarian or Informationists if you need more assistance.

    Clinical Question:

    1. Use the PICO/PICOT method to generate your search concepts, keywords, or terms.  The PICO method is a framework to help generate search terms.  Not all questions will fit into the PICO/PICOT template, but it is still a good starting point.  So what is PICO or PICOT?  It is an acronynm to represent the following:
      • P: Patient/Population/Problem
      • I: Interaction/Indicator/Exposure
      • C: Comparison (sometimes there isn't one)
      • O: Outcome
      • T: Timeframe/Type of publication
    2. An example clinical question may be, "Does a mother's nutritional intake during pregnancy affect the birthweight of the baby?"
      • P: Patient/Population/Problem - pregnancy
      • I: Interaction/Indicator/Exposure - nutritional intake/food/diet
      • C: Comparison (sometimes there isn't one) - n/a
      • O: Outcome - baby birthweight
    3. Use 3 or more concepts to yield better search results.
    4. Do not use natural language i.e. sentences in the search boxes of databases, just concepts or terms.  Most biomedical databases do not recognize natural language.

    Non-clinical Question:

    1.  Select a topic of interest and start broadly.
    2. Do some background reading on your topic of interest if you are not very familiar with it.
    3. Determine what aspect of the topic you want to research.  Is your question something that is answerable?  Is it quantitative or qualititative?
    4. An example research question may be, "Does social media influence the use of tobacco by adolescents?" Even though this question is not a clinical question, the PICO framework can still be used.  
      • P: Patient/Population/Problem - adolescents
      • I: Interaction/Indicator/Exposure - social media
      • C: Comparison (sometimes there isn't one) - n/a
      • O: Outcome - tobacco use
    5. Take the concepts generated with PICO and search the concepts in the appropriate databases.

    Databases to Search: General Concepts and Overview:

    1. Determine which databases are appropriate for your topic and become familiar with them.  Discover whether a database uses controlled vocabulary and learn the searching syntax for best results.
    2. Two of the most frequently used biomedical databases for literature searching are PubMed and Embase but there are a number of others.  Databases tailored for the health sciences can be found on the Health Sciences A-Z Databases page, and the full list of the University Databases can be found on the University Library's A-Z list.  

    Subject Specific Databases

    BIOSIS 1985-present available

    Life sciences
    Environmental studies

    Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) 

    According to the Cochrane Library, CENTRAL contains "randomized and quasi-randomized controlled trials"

    Many records are from PubMed and Embase but also includes unpublished studies from and WHO's International Clinical Trials Registry Platform

    CINAHL 1983-present 

    Allied health

    Education Resources Information Center (ERIC) 1966-present

    Considered the world's largest educational database

    Houses 1.5 million records, includes journal articles, "research reports, curriculum and teaching guides, conference papers, dissertations and theses, and books"

    Embase 1947-present

    European counterpart to PubMed
    International biomedical literature

    Joanna Briggs 1998-present

    Evidence Based Nursing Practice

    PsycINFO 1800-present

    Psychological and psychiatric literature

    PubMed 1966-present

    Preeminent biomedical literature database
    Over 30 million records of peer-reviewed biomedical literature

    Web of Science 1900-present

    Multi-disciplinary database, includes soci-economics, social sciences, and biomedicine
    Includes times cited feature

    Find It @ Emory | Proxy Bookmarklet | LibKey Nomad

    Find It @ Emory

    In order to access full text articles from database search results, users should access the database through the library database page.  From the search results, click on the Find It @ Emory button next to the citation or abstract.  

    • The electronic availability of the full text article will be indicated under the tab "Access Online". 
    • If the article is not available either electronically or in print,  use the Interlibrary Loan link provided to request a copy.

    Proxy Bookmarklet

    The Emory Proxy Resolver Bookmarklet can be used to request full-text articles from databases and journal web pages fror any web browser.

    Just click the bookmarklet when prompted to pay for an article.

    To add the bookmarklet to your browser visit the Accessing Emory Digital Resources LibGuide.

    LibKey Nomad

    LibKey Nomad is a browser extension compatible with Google Chrome, Firefox and other browsers that provides access to full-text articles with a single click.  Go to to download. 

    As you search PubMed and select journals, click on the Download PDF button to access full text.

    To find out more about LibKey Nomad visit the Accessing Emory Digital Resources LibGuide.

    Writing Support by Schools | Recommended Books on Scientific Writing | Organize References | Online Styles Manuals

     Writing Support by Schools

    Books Related to Scientific Writing

    On the Writing and Publishing section of the website, there are a number of eBooks and print books on various aspects of scientific writing:

    • eBooks on Scientific Writing
    • Books on Communicating Science
    • Books on Writing up Literature
    • Books on Getting Published
    • Books on Writing Grants and Proposals

    Organize References

     Learn about various citation management programs like EndNote, Mendeley and Zotero.  

    Online Styles Manuals

    There are a number of different manual styles.  See them here.

    Nature Masterclasses OpenAccess 

    Nature Masterclasses: Select a Journal

    It’s generally a good idea to write your manuscript with a specific target journal in mind. Start by viewing Nature Masterclasses' module Part 2: Publishing a research paper - Scientific Writing and Publishing. This module includes how to "select a journal for publication."  See below for instructions on how to access the module.  If you need additional assistance in selecting a journal, use the Ask a Librarian service:

    Nature Masterclasses: Article Submission and Publication

    Once your paper is written, the next steps are submission and publication. The Nature Masterclasses online course “Scientific Writing and Publishing” is a series of short videos that provide a comprehensive overview of the writing and publication process. Publication topics covered include choosing the right journal for publication, the technical requirements of submitting an article, and the editorial and scientific peer review processes after its submission.

    To access Nature MasterClasses:

    • Go to
    • Click on “Login with your institutional credentials” and select Emory University.
    • Login with your Emory NetID and password

    Open Access Publishing Model

    Open access publishing aims to make research articles and other types of scientific data freely available online to the public without financial or technical barriers such as publisher paywalls.  Researchers can make their works open access by depositing their work in a freely accessible online journal or repository or may pay a processing fee to the online journal to make their work open access.  In most instances, open access journals, just like more traditionally published journals, exercise rigorous peer review in choosing articles for publication.  The Emory Scholarly Communications Office provides an Open Access Publishing Fund "when no alternative funding is available."  Eligibility and other guidelines related to the funding can be found on the Open Access Publishing Fund page.  

    Visit these web sites for more information about open access: