Skip to Main Content
+27 21 959

ukwazi 2   

Social Work Research Support

This guide is designed to assist in your research process. The guide contains research resources related to Research Design, Literature Review, Research Methods, Data Analysis and Ethics.



Boolean Searching

The use of ANDs, ORs, NOTs, and other operators to define the relationship between search terms. The use of these operators are essential to develop comprehensive and logical search strategies.
Citation Management
A concept that represents the process and manner by which the citations that result from searches are managed (such as, merging results from multiple resources, eliminating duplicates, preparing results for screening, etc.).
An international, non-profit group that is well known for the quality of its systematic reviews.
Collapsing Terms
Identifying search terms or phrases that are redundant, and deleting them from your final list of search terms.
Controlled Terms
See Controlled Vocabularies
Core Resources
The most important set of databases and resources searched for the majority of health sciences literature search projects.
A common term used in databases to represent controlled vocabulary.
Eligibility Criteria
Rules, set prior to searching, to help determine the types of studies to include and exclude from a project.
Eligibility Screening
The process that researchers use to include and exclude citations informal review projects. It is often a two-step process that begins with a title and abstract review and is followed by a full-text review of the citations that pass the initial title and abstract screening phase.
Entry Terms
Terms that when searched will become associated with the relevant controlled vocabulary term. PubMed and Embase are examples of two databases that have entry terms.
An important database for education-related literature.
A process that expands a controlled vocabulary parent term to include all of its children.
Evidence Synthesis
An umbrella term to represent studies that rely heavily on past research.
Exclusion Criteria
Rules, set prior to searching, to help determine the types of studies to exclude from a project.
Field Tags
Qualifiers appended to a search term to dictate which citation fields will be searched.
See Search Filters.
Google Scholar
A multidisciplinary resource that is often searched in evidence synthesis projects.
Grey Literature
Information that is not published by commercial publishers and generally not easily accessible.
Grey Sources
Resources that provide access to information not traditionally published and easily accessible.
Inclusion Criteria
Rules, set prior to searching, to help determine the types of studies to include in a project.
Iterative Process
The process of incrementally modifying and improving a search based on a developing understanding of relevant search terms and database indexing tendencies.
Terms used in search strategies that are not a part of a controlled vocabulary. These are often used in title and abstract searches.
See Search Filters.
Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)
The controlled vocabulary used for MEDLINE citations.
A database of citations with MeSH terms. Many databases search MEDLINE citations, including PubMed and Ovid MEDLINE.
See Medical Subject Headings (MeSH).
MeSH Database
A feature within PubMed that allows searchers to search for MeSH terms.
See Boolean Searching.
In searching, parentheses are used to group or nest-like terms. For example, a search of heart attack that includes synonyms would be grouped in parentheses like this: (heart attack OR heart attacks OR myocardial infarction OR .... ).
Phrase Searching
Forcing two or more terms together in a manner that they are searched in the precise order in which they are listed.
See PubMed Central.
PRESS (Peer Review of Electronic Search Strategies)
A framework for peer reviewing search strategies.
Proximity Searching
The use of an operator to force the search to only retrieve citations in which one term appears within a specified number of terms of another.
An important database for the psychology literature.
Publication Bias
The idea that studies are more likely to be published (or not published) based on their results.
An important database for the health sciences literature, and the primary interface for access to MEDLINE.
PubMed Central (PMC)
A free full-text collection of health sciences literature, including studies that are made publicly available as part of the National Institutes of Health Public Access Policy.
Quality Assessment
The process of critically examining and evaluating study methodologies and findings, often implemented as part of systematic reviews and other evidence synthesis projects.
Reporting Standards
Certain types of projects have established conventions that outline how the research should be described in manuscripts. PRISMA, for example, is a reporting standard for systematic reviews and meta-analyses. These standards often inform how search strategies should be described.
Reproducible Search Strategies
Presenting search strategies in a way that ensures they can be run without the need to interpret, or otherwise guess, what was done. Reproducible searches are often presented in a text block or line-by-line structure. See the FAQ for examples.
Characteristics of systematic searches: Search, AppraisaL, Synthesis, Analysis.
Scoping Review
A type of literature review that involves a structured approach and generally tackles broad questions.
Scoping Searches
A early type of search used to get a sense of the volume of literature on a topic and some of the most commonly used terminology, often occurring early in the iterative search process.
A multidisciplinary resource that is often searched in evidence synthesis projects.
See Eligibility Screening.
Search Bias
A search bias is an error built into the search process that alters result sets. Search biases include: Publication bias, Database and Location bias, Grey Literature bias, Time-lag bias, Language bias, citation bias and Multiple Publication bias.
Search Fields
The fields that are searchable in a database.
Search Filters
A predefined search that is used to help restrict search results to studies with certain characteristics. For example, publication type and article language are two common filters or limits.
Search Limits
See Search Filters.
Sport Discus
A database of sports medicine literature.
A common term used to represent a controlled vocabulary in a database.
Subject Resources
Databases or resources that are important based on the subject matter of the research topic.
Supplemental Searches
Strategies to identify citations that supplement the standard database searches. These include hand searches of journals, checks of reference lists, and other strategies.
Database-specific characters that further qualify search terms. A search of diabetes[title] in PubMed would search for the word diabetes in the citation title field. The [title] is syntax.
Systematic approach
Conducting a search in a structured and methodical manner.
Term Generation
A process used to identify and collect search terms relevant to a concept.
Term Harvesting
See Term Generation.
Text Words
See Keywords.
A common feature in citation databases that allows searchers to include word variants. For example, a search of diabet*, with * representing the truncation symbol, will search for diabetes, diabetic, diabetics, etc.
Validated Filters
Search filters that have been statistically validated to be effective to a certain degree of specificity and sensitivity.


University of the Western Cape,

Robert Sobukwe Road,



Tel: 021 959 2946