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Library Session for the On-Campus/Online Professional MPH Program

  Presented by Michael Sholinbeck, msholinb@library.berkeley.edu

» » NOTE: This web page is being retired. Please visit the new page at: guides.lib.berkeley.edu/publichealth/oomph

URL for this web page:

» Please also take heed of the 9 Library Things Every OOMPH Student Should Know!


The Public Health Library, Location, Reference, Off-Campus Access to Library Resources

Sheldon Margen Public Health Library hours
Summer: M-F 10-5
Fall/Spring: M-Th 9-8, F 9-5, Sa-Su 1-5

Reference Services:

How to set up off-campus access to library resources (databases, online journals, etc.) using the Library proxy server or Library VPN

Information on UCB Wi-Fi Options, including AirBears

Before You Start: Your Topic, the Scope of Your Search, Where to Look

» You can watch a 7 min. video on these issues.

What causes disease?
How you conceptualize your topic affects how you search for relevant information ...
Perhaps you will first consider the interaction and interdependence of environmental factors (eg, pollution, disasters, outbreaks) and social factors (eg, smoking, obesity, drug use):

  Asthma is caused by and/or made worse by smoking and/or air pollution.

But consider:

  » Maybe it is "caused" by inadequate regulation of transportation, energy production, and/or tobacco ...
  » Or by neighborhood characteristics and/or historical racism in housing ...
  » Are genetic factors relevant?
  » What about access to healthy food?
  » What about health insurance or healthcare disparities which affects access to appropriate prescription drugs?
  » Is lack of appropriate child care services for working women a factor?

Is your topic researchable?

  1. "The harmful effects of domestic beer consumption among students at Cal's Big Game"
  2. "Health effects of binge drinking among college students in the United States"
  3. "Alcohol consumption by young adults"

   . . . It may prove difficult to find research on very narrow topics, or to cope with the vast literature on an un-focused, broad topic.

What is the scope of your search?
Literature searching is a process that includes deciding which databases to use, which terms to search on, etc.
If you try to find all relevant citations, you will likely also find many non-relevant citations.
If you try to find only relevant citations, you may miss finding some relevant citations.

    » The search scope influences how you focus or limit your search when using online databases, as well as when you decide you have "enough."

The importance of indexing
  » Do you want articles on labor (as in work) or articles on labor (as in giving birth)? ... Or is it labour?
  » Do you want articles on HIV (a virus) or articles on HIV diseases (like AIDS)?
  » Is lead a noun or a verb?
  » What's the difference between diet, food, food supply, food habits, food chain, nutritional status, eating, energy intake, ...?

Indexing facilitates more precise search statements, especially for topics that are vague or ambiguous.
Using index terms also helps you avoid the need to think of every possible synonym or alternate spelling of your search terms.
Indexing means the citations in the database are assigned terms from a controlled vocabulary (Not all databases use a controlled vocabulary, however)
Index terms are sometimes called descriptors or thesaurus terms; in PubMed they are called Medical Subject Headings, or MeSH
» More information is in the database sections below.

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PubMed Tips

PubMed for UCB: Citations to over 23 million journal articles (and a very small number of books/book chapters) on biomedical and public health topics, with links to full text via Getting Started with UC-eLinks

PubMed searching top tips:
  1. Combine search terms (as well as searches) with AND or OR
  2. Use Filters (ages, language, publication type, etc.)
  3. Search for your term as a word in the title or title or abstract (using Filters, Advanced Search, or Field Tags)
  4. Use MeSH (Medical Subject Headings), with subheadings
  5. Use truncation (with a *; eg smok* retrieves smoke, smoker, smoking, etc.)
      » Beware that in PubMed, truncation turns off the "mapping" of your term to MeSH terms
  6. Use the Related Citations link, once you find a set of relevant citations
  7. Try PubMed's Clinical Queries or Topic-Specific Queries
  8. Always keep in mind the question you are trying to answer when creating a search strategy and when reviewing the articles you find

» PubMed Quick Guide: Basic search help.
» PubMed exercise set (PDF; from the Public Health Library)

» Combining search terms with Boolean operators (AND, OR, NOT - remember Venn diagrams?)

» Combining searches using History: Searches can be combined or used in subsequent searches from Advanced search History.

» Filters: Limit your search by language, age group, publication type, publication date, and more.
   Also use Filters to limit your search to words in the article title, abstract, or Medical Subject Heading (MeSH).
   (Note: Filters stay in effect until you clear them.)

» Use Medical Subject Headings (MeSH):
» Clinical Queries: Evidence-based PubMed filters: » Topic-Specific Queries "Canned" search strategies that retrieve a citation subset of PubMed. Topic-specific queries include:
» Saving citations temporarily using PubMed's Clipboard

» My NCBI:

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Beyond PubMed: Other Resources for Finding Journal Articles and More   Getting Started with UC-eLinks     access paid by UCB

Remember those PubMed "Top Tips"? Most are applicable to the databases below as well as several other databases.

Key Subjects: Nutrition; Agriculture
Citations from books, book chapters, journal articles, technical reports, and more. Subjects include agriculture, agricultural economics, nutrition, food assistance programs, etc.
» Agricola does not use a controlled vocabulary. Use the subject descriptor index to find terms, or focus your search by using title words.
» Subject terms/features not found in PubMed:
    Food security/insecurity, WIC program, etc.

BIOSIS Previews
Key Subjects: Biology; Medicine
The most comprehensive database for life science research. Coverage includes traditional areas of biology, such as botany, zoology and microbiology, as well as related fields such as biomedicine, agriculture, pharmacology and ecology. Interdisciplinary fields such as medicine, biochemistry, biophysics, bioengineering and biotechnology are also included, as well as instrumentation and methods. Includes journal article citations, books and meeting abstracts, papers and posters.
» Use Concept Codes, Taxonomic Data, and more to focus your BIOSIS Previews search.
» Subject terms/features not found in PubMed:
    Better searching by taxonomic data, includes meeting abstracts ...
» Guide to BIOSIS previews:  html  |  pdf

Business Source Complete
Key Subjects: Business; Economics
Marketing, management, economics, finance, accounting, and more. Besides journal literature, BSC includes financial data, conference proceedings, case studies, investment research reports, industry reports, market research reports, country reports, company profiles, SWOT analyses, and more.
» BSC does use a controlled vocabulary. Click Subjects on the right side to browse the thesaurus.
» Subject terms/features not found in PubMed:
    Search by company or industry, public health topics from a marketing point of view ...

Key Subjects: Economics
The most comprehensive index to scholarly journal articles, books, and dissertations in economics and related fields.
» EconLit does use a controlled vocabulary. Click Thesaurus (above the search boxes) to find terms.
» Subject terms/features not found in PubMed:
    Analysis of Health Care Markets, Actuarial Studies of Insurance Companies ...

Key Subjects: Medicine; Health; Pharmacology/Toxicology
Broad biomedical scope with strong coverage in pharmaceutical and toxicological research, including economic evaluations. Useful for clinical medicine, genetics, biochemistry, molecular biology, microbiology, infectious diseases, healthcare policy & management, biomedical engineering & medical devices, and more. Embase is a primary resource for conducting systematic reviews and researching evidence-based medicine. Includes abstracts of over 2,000 conferences.
» Embase does use a controlled vocabulary. Click Browse then Emtree above the search box to search or browse for terms.
» Subject terms/features not found in PubMed:
    Better coverage of drug/toxicology topics, conference abstracts, more European literature, search by CAS Registry Number ...

Global Health
Key Subjects: Global Health; Nutrition; Public Health
Citations in environmental and occupational health, food safety and hygiene, infectious diseases, medical microbiology, nutrition, public health, toxicology, zoonoses, and more. Sources include journals, books, reports, conference proceedings, patents, theses, and electronic only publications. Significantly more international coverage than PubMed.
» Global Health does use a controlled vocabulary. Select Descriptors in the drop-down list by the search box, then click Select from Thesaurus to browse the thesaurus.
» Subject terms/features not found in PubMed:
    Search by (relatively narrow) geographic locations (ie, setting), or country in which work published.
» Global Health Database Exercise (PDF)
» Global Health Search Help

Google Scholar
Key Subjects: Multidisciplinary
Citations in all fields.
Google Scholar does not use a controlled vocabulary.
» Subject terms/features not found in PubMed:
    Large topical scope, (sometimes) searches within the full article, cited reference searching possible (but problematic).
Google scholar will not let you save history or combine searches. It is unknown exactly what sources Google Scholar has access to. Your searches may also turn up such documents as CVs, PowerPoints, syllabi, etc.

Key Subjects: Psychology; Behavior
Citations in psychology, behavior, and related disciplines; includes citations of journal articles, conference proceedings, books and book chapters, reports and dissertations.
» PsycINFO does use a controlled vocabulary. Click Thesaurus (above the search boxes) to find terms.
» Subject terms/features not found in PubMed:
    Economic security, community attitudes, socioeconomic class attitudes, labeling, test/measurement index ...

Key Subjects: Multidisciplinary
Large, multidisciplinary database of citations to articles, conference papers, patents, and more.
» Scopus does not use a controlled vocabulary. Scopus uses author and other keywords.
» Subject terms/features not found in PubMed:
    Excellent resource for cited reference searching; Journal Analyzer tool assesses journal performance.
» Scopus search tips
» Scopus training videos

Social Work Abstracts
Key Subjects: Social Work
Citations on topics such as homelessness, HIV/AIDS, child and family welfare, aging, substance abuse, legislation, community organization, and more.
» Social Work Abstracts does not use a controlled vocabulary. Use the subject term index to find terms: click Indexes and choose Subjects to browse for terms, or use title words.
» Subject terms/features not found in PubMed:
    Age bias, family functioning, resiliency, ...

Sociological Abstracts
Key Subjects: Sociology; Demography
Citations in demography, education, law, social psychology, and sociology. Sources include journals, books, conferences and meetings, and dissertations.
» Sociological Abstracts does use a controlled vocabulary. Click Thesaurus (above the search boxes) to find terms.
» Subject terms/features not found in PubMed:
    Cultural capital, peer relations, victimization, family structure, strategies, neighborhoods, social constructionism, ...
» Sociological Abstracts Exercise (PDF)
» Sociological Abstracts Guide

Web of Science
Key Subjects: Multidisciplinary
Large, multidisciplinary database; links to cited articles and times cited are provided for retrieved articles.
» Web of Science does not use a controlled vocabulary; it uses author keywords and keywords assigned algorithmically.
» Subject terms/features not found in PubMed:
    Scope of database is broad; best resource for cited reference searching.
» Cited Reference Searching exercise (PDF)
» Web of Science Help

The above are but a sample of the many databases available to find article and other citations.
» See the Public Health Library's Indexes and Databases web page for more.
Ask a librarian for help if you are having trouble with your topic.
» Click the Getting Started with UC-eLinks UC-eLinks icon to find full text online, or to see if the print version is in a library near you.

Use the library catalogs to find books, reports, etc. on your topic. Books, while not often where original research is published, can often provide an overview of a topic and get you started with some key articles.

Sources of systematic and other reviews

"Systematic reviews seek to collate all evidence that fits pre-specified eligibility criteria in order to address a specific research question. They aim to minimize bias by using explicit, systematic methods."
(from Higgins JPT, Green S (editors). Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions Version 5.1.0 [updated March 2011]. The Cochrane Collaboration, 2011. Available from www.cochrane-handbook.org).

Grey Literature
Grey Literature generally refers to publications not produced by commercial publishers, including reports (pre-prints, preliminary progress and advanced reports, technical reports, market research reports, etc.), theses, conference proceedings, and other documents. They are often produced by government entities, research institutions, or NGOs/IGOs.

More Resources

Where to Find Information (UCB Business Library)
Many resources are available to find information on companies and industries. You may be particularly interested in IBIS World Industry Market Research, which provides online full-text reports for over 700 U.S. industries.

Electronic Newspapers and News Sources (UCB Public Health Library)
News sources from around the world, including late-breaking stories as well as historical sources. Newspapers, online sources, television, etc.

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Critically Evaluating What You Find

» You can watch a 4 min. video on this topic

What is evidence?
All research is (potentially) "evidence" and there are no "perfect" studies.
It's doubtful that any study is totally without some kind of bias, either in the study design, or in the author's pre-existing beliefs, not to mention the source of the research funds. How bias in methodology was controlled and the significance of bias in any particular study is what's relevant.
» Read Why Most Published Research Findings Are False (PLoS Med. 2005 Aug;2(8):e124)

Peer review
Peer review refers to a process whereby scholarly work (ie, an article) is reviewed and critiqued by experts to ensure it meets some standards of acceptance before it is published.
Does this process make for better science?
» Read Editorial peer review for improving the quality of reports of biomedical studies (Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2007 Apr 18;(2):MR000016)

Who pays for science?
Most scientific research is funded by government grants, companies doing research and development, and non-profit foundations. Because science is attempting to get at some "truth," the source of research funding shouldn't have a significant effect on the outcome of scientific research, right?
» Read Industry sponsorship and research outcome (Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Dec 12;12:MR000033).

Oops! I made a mistake (or ... was it cheating..?)
Occasionally, researchers make mistakes, and sometimes those mistakes affect the conclusions of a published article. Articles may be retracted if the mistake is significant. This is a formal process where the author or journal publishes a statement outlining the error. Sometimes, however, retraction is the result of fraud, plagiarism, or other bad acts.
» Read Retraction Watch.

What gets published? ("Publication bias")
Studies that report interventions that had no effect are less likely to get published. What does this mean in terms of the state of knowledge on a topic?
» Read Systematic Review of the Empirical Evidence of Study Publication Bias and Outcome Reporting Bias (PLoS One. 2008 Aug 28;3(8):e3081)

Reliability and validity
Adopted from Chapter 3, Conducting research literature reviews: from the Internet to paper, by Arlene Fink; Sage, 2010.
Reliable data collection: relatively free from measurement error.
  » Is the survey written at a reading level too high for the people completing it?
  » Is the device used to measure elapsed time in an experiment accurate?
Validity refers to how well a measure assesses what it claims to measure
  » If a survey is supposed to measure "quality of life," how is that concept defined?
  » How accurately can this animal study of drug metabolism be extrapolated to humans?

What to consider when looking at survey or estimated data:
Adopted from information on the UCSF Family Health Outcomes Project web site

Is qualitative research "evidence"?
If your goal is to understand beliefs and meanings in the group with whom you are working, then qualitative studies can be important.
» Read Criteria for evaluating evidence on public health interventions (J Epidemiol Community Health. 2002 Feb;56(2):119-27)

Opinion or fact?
Do the conclusions of the article follow the evidence that's presented? Are opinions or notions posited as facts?
» Search "As is well known..." in Google Scholar.
» Read A Propaganda Index for Reviewing Problem Framing in Articles and Manuscripts: An Exploratory Study (PLoS One. 2011;6(5):e19516)

CV boosting: Does this study add to the body of knowledge, or is it just something the author is doing to add to his/her list of publications?
(In)significance of a single study: Science is incremental. Beware of any study that's proclaimed to be a "breakthrough."
» Read Evidence-based public health (RC Brownson. New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011)

What's the question?
» Compare: "Our intervention worked toward fixing Problem X" vs. "The best intervention(s) for fixing Problem X is/are:..."

The Critical Appraisal Skills Programme (UK) links to a set of brief PDF checklist documents on critically evaluating different types of studies (eg, systematic reviews, cohort studies, RCTs, qualitative studies, etc.)

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Using RefWorks to Organize Your Citations and Create Bibliographies

RefWorks is a web-based tool that allows users to create a citation database by importing references from online databases. You can use these references in writing papers, and automatically format the paper in any of hundreds of citations styles in seconds.
Access to RefWorks is provided by the UCB Library to UCB students, staff, and faculty.

RefWorks Exercise Set and Handout (PDF; from the Public Health Library)

Introduction to Using RefWorks (3 min. video tutorial; from the Public Health Library)

» EndNote, Mendeley, and Zotero are other bibliographic management software programs. Information on each may be found here.

Save your search strategies
Nearly all the databases you use to find articles, etc., retain your search history. Literature reviews, like epidemiological research, should be rigorous and reproducible. Save or print your search history to help document your search strategy, which will include:

Using a Literature Review Matrix (.doc) can help you organize what you find in your literature search.
(This is a simplified version of the matrix presented in Health sciences literature review made easy: the matrix method (J. Garrard; Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Learning, 2011; 2014))

» Using PubMed's Clipboard and My NCBI can help with both saving your search strategy and the citations you find. See links in the PubMed section, above.

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