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Literature Reviews in STEM

Step 4. Identify (and Harvest) Subject Terms

Your first set of results isn’t likely to be perfect. Don’t worry about it at this point—we’ll sharpen the search as we move forward. For now, focus on finding an article that correctly represents at least one of your topics. Ready?

Locate at least one article that seems in some way pertinent to your subject. Click on the article's title, but not the PDF (yet).

 

Next,

if you're not there automatically, click the "Abstract/Details" tab. You should now be on an article record. This page will have information about the article, including title, authors, abstract, publishing info, etc. We're most interested in these controlled keywords that describe the article.

 

Harvest those terms!

Subjects (aka subject headings, subject terms, controlled vocabulary, and others) are database-specific and connect this article to other articles within the database. Do any of these subject terms describe any part of the concept you are investigating? Do any of these terms describe your concepts better than you did? Pay attention to how these new terms might change your original question: for example, how would Diet differ from Digestive tract?

Capture these and save them! As you locate terms, add them to the chart under the appropriate column.

Concept 1 Concept 2 Concept 3
Microgravity Diet "International Space Station"*
"Space flight" "Digestive tract" "Space stations"
Astronauts Physiology "Long duration space flight"

 

Now, repeat your search, incorporating or switching out the additional terms. All the concepts in a single column can be grouped using parentheses and OR, for example:

  Microgravity   OR   "Space flight"   OR   Astronauts   )

AND

  Diet   OR   "Digestive tract"   OR   "Physiology"   )

AND

  "International Space Station  " OR   "Space stations"   OR   "Long duration space flight"   )

 

 

You're on the right track when search starts to look a little like math:

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