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NRS420 Research Skills Guide: Plan

Your Assessment Task

It is important to break down the requirements of your assessment task before you start searching for information so that you can plan your approach.

Let's take a look at your first assessment task:

"...undertake a focused search of the literature to identify contemporary international and national health policies and initiatives/models of primary health care focused on responding to, reducing and managing the impact of a chronic and complex condition. Critically analyse these policies and initiatives/models using research that has evaluated these initiatives implemented in the primary health care setting delivered by nurses."

You are then given a structure to follow, including background, methods, results, discussion and conclusion.

Types of information you will need:

  • You will need to access grey literature to find the health policies and guidelines in their original format
  • You will need to find journal articles critiquing these policies and initiatives

Topic Analysis

Let's start thinking about what terms you will use when searching for information. To do this:

  • Identify the key concepts of your topic (watch the topic analysis video for assistance); and then
  • Brainstorm as many synonyms and similar terms/phrases as you can. Don't forget alternative spellings and plurals.

This is a useful exercise because the language used to describe your topic may vary from source to source, and you don't want to miss out on a good source because it uses a different term to the one you are searching on.  You are very likely to find more words and phrases once you start searching, so don't be surprised if you have to come back and do the search again after your initial attempt.

Let's have a look at one or two of the terms from your assessment task as an example:

Keyword Synonym / Similar term or phrase
primary health care "primary healthcare", "primary health", "public health",

incidence, epidemiology, statistics, frequency, occurrence

You will have to do the same for the chronic condition you choose to research, the terms for nursing and (depending on the part of the question you are answering) terms for policies, guidelines etc as well.

Limits (or exclusions) - think about the parameters of the question. Do you need to limit the results by date? Or geographic location? Or age group, or anything else?

You will need to be familiar with Boolean searching so you are confident in the way you combine the terms. See the next section of this guide for some common search tips.


Write down the key concepts from your topic and have a go at brainstorming as many alternative keywords and phrases as possible.

Find additional keywords

Tip: Online dictionaries and thesauri can help you identify synonyms. 

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