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Research Guides

HST308: Aging and Health

This guide is designed to help HST308 students with their mini-synopsis review assignment.

The Mini-Synopsis Review Assignment

Your "mini-synopsis review" assignment involves developing and documenting a search strategy that addresses your research question on health and aging. This course guide contains suggested resources and tips to help you approach your assignment.

Note: while the "mini-synopsis review" assignment adapts some elements of a scoping review, you are not expected to do a comprehensive search or follow scoping review or other knowledge synthesis methods


For your "mini-synopsis review" assignment, you'll be searching the following three databases:

Building a Search Strategy

Your assignment involves developing a search string using keywords, boolean (AND, OR), and truncation (*) or exact phrases(""). The same search string will be used in all three databases!

Here are tips and strategies on building a search string:

1. Identify search concepts from your research question

  • Breakdown your research question into your main search concepts (e.g. population, concept, outcome).
  • You might also have to break down your search concepts further down (e.g. Elderly Korean immigrants in Canada, might be 3-4 concepts: elderly, Korean, immigrants, Canada)
Search Concept 1 Search Concept 2 Search Concept 3 Search Concept 4 Search Concept 5


Example: Elderly






Example: social isolation

Health Outcome

Example: mental health

2. Brainstorm broader, narrower, similar, or related keywords 

  • For each search concept or keyword you identified, brainstorm similar and related words to describe the concept.
  • What words might other scholars, researchers, or practitioners use to describe your topic?
Example: Elderly Korean immigrants social isolation mental health
senior East Asian refugees loneliness psychological health
older adults Asian     well-being
  ethnic minorities      

3. Modify keywords with "" for exact phrases 

  • If your keywords are a phrase (two words or more), try putting quotations around it to search it as a phrase 
  • Example: mental health vs "mental health"

4. Modify keywords with * to find alternate endings of words 

  • If you want to search the singular and plural version of your keyword, or any other variation of the ending of the keyword, try putting a * at the end
  • Example: immigrant vs immigra* (immigra* searches for immigrant, immigrants, immigrate, immigration, etc.)

5. Combine all your keywords together with AND and OR

  • Combine the different search concepts with AND, and combine the similar keywords with OR
  • Example: (elder* OR senior* OR "older adult*") AND (korean* OR "east asian" OR "ethnic minorit*") AND ("social isolation" OR loneliness) AND ("mental health" OR "psychological health" OR well-being)
Elder* AND Korean* AND immigra* AND "social isolation" AND "mental health"
OR   OR   OR   OR   OR
senior*   "East Asian"   refugee*   loneliness   "psychological health"
OR   OR           OR
"older adult*"   Asian           well-being
    "ethnic minorit*"            

6. Try your search string out on a database and look at the results!

Troubleshooting your search

Did you try your search string in a database, but didn't like the results? Sometimes it takes some trial and error to get the search just right! Here are some things you can try:

Too few results

  • Try taking away a search concept! The more ANDs you have the more restrictive your search
  • Add more similar or related keywords with OR
  • Remove a "phrase search"
  • Broaden your research question

Too many irrelevant results

  • Try adding a search concept with AND and further narrow your research question.
  • Take away similar or related keywords with OR
  • Add "phrase searches"

Documenting Your Search

  • Once you've created your search string, you can copy and paste it into each of the three databases.
  • Remember to record the number of search results for each database
  • Example: 
    • (elder* OR senior* OR "older adult*") AND (korean* OR "east asian" OR "ethnic minorit*") AND ("social isolation" OR loneliness) AND ("mental health" OR "psychological health" OR well-being)
      • AgeLine: 16
      • PubMed: 117
      • CINAHL: 19

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