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Exercise and Sport Science: Library Resources for Research: Plan Search

Step #1 Your Research Question

Clearly articulate your research topic as a question

  • State your research question as clearly and specifically as possible.
  • Try to articulate all aspects of your questions

Example Question

Does stretching before exercise prevent injuries?

Step #2 Identify Subject Related Databases

Decide on the “aboutness” of your topic and select related databases

  • The subject coverage of a database is determined by the journals it tracks.
  • You choose to search different databases so you can be sure to find articles from a full range of journals.
  • Many Exercise & Sport Science questions are interdisciplinary and will need to be searched in multiple databases.


Does stretching before exercise prevent injuries?

This question is primarily about exercise. The following database will be explored:

The question is also about injury prevention so the following database will also be explored:

Step #3 Identify Questions Part

Analyze the parts of your question. What different aspects does it have?

Clinical and social science questions often have these aspects:

  • People/population/problem
  • Intervention
  • Comparisons
  • Outcomes

If the PICO model does not seem to fit your question, still try to identify the distinct parts of your question, perhaps the Who, What, Why.


Does stretching before exercise prevent injuries?

  • People/population/problem = people who exercise
  • Intervention = stretching before exercise
  • Comparisons = no stretching
  • Outcomes = injury prevention

Step #4 Synonyms

Consider synonyms to add to the words used in the question.

  • Successful searching is all about language. You need to match the words you use in your search with the words used by the article authors and database indexers.
  • Do you need to include alternate endings for your search words (stretch, stretches, stretching)?
  • Do you need to include words that have similar meanings (exercise, sports).
  • Some databases have tools like a Thesaurus or Subject Headings that can help you find similar words to use in your search.
  • Once you start searching you may find more words in titles and abstracts and subject headings to try in your search.


Does stretching before exercise prevent injuries?

  • P = people who exercise; plurals? physical activity? sports? athelete?
  • I = stretching before exercise; stretch?
  • C = no stretching
  • O = injury prevention; injuries? sprain? strain? prevent? preventing?

One way to identify synonyms is to pay attention to the database's subject headings. In SportDiscus, subject index terms are listed in the Thesaurus. In PubMed, these are known as MeSH (for Medical Subject Headings) terms.

Step #5 Entering Search Words

Enter your search to fit the way the database works.

  • Start simple. There may not be a lot of literature on your topic so start by searching for the main aspects.
  • As you add more words to your search, use AND / OR correctly. See Boolean AND / OR on the Boolean Tips page.
  • When you combine AND / OR in the same search, make sure to put parentheses around the words that you are joining with OR.


Does stretching before exercise prevent injuries?

Stretching AND Injuries
(Stretching OR Stretch) AND (Injuries OR Injury) AND (warmup OR warm up) 
      Note: Use parentheses to hold words joined by OR together.
(Stretching OR Stretch) AND (Injuries OR Injury) AND (warmup OR warm up) AND (prevent OR prevention) 
(Stretching OR Stretch) AND (Injuries OR Injury) AND (warmup OR warm up) AND (prevent OR prevention) AND (athlete Or athletes OR exercise OR exercising OR sport OR sports) 

Step #6 Zotero or Mendeley

Zotero and Mendeley are a web-based citation management and formatting programs.

Export selected references to Zotero or Mendeley so you can:

  • eliminate duplicate references
  • connect to full text
  • cite references in your writing and generate bibliographies in the correct format

Learn more about Mendeley or Zotero