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Capstone and PICO Project Toolkit

Guide to locating research for evidence synthesis projects and assignments.

Assessing Your Need: Background vs. Foreground

One of the first steps in selecting an appropriate database is to assess the level of your information need.  Are you interested in resources that answer more general, foundational question (e.g., defining concepts, understanding the context for a particular disease or intervention?) If so, you might benefit from locating sources like books, book chapters, evidence summaries, clinical guidelines or review articles.  Check out the suggested sources for locating background information.

Do you have a well-defined research question, and you need primary research evidence that addresses that question?  If so, you'll probably want to locate research articles from scholarly journals.  Check out the databases for scholarly articles, linked below.  

Databases for Scholarly Articles

The evidence needed to answer specific, narrow research questions is most frequently located in the scholarly literature, which is indexed into the core health sciences databases.  While there is some overlap in the publications that are indexed in these databases, they each have a unique depth of coverage in particular topics.  As such, it is important that a comprehensive literature search includes multiple databases.  

For questions related to nursing and allied health, search CINAHL (Comprehensive Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature):

For questions that have a biomedical focus, search MEDLINE via PubMed:

For questions with psychosocial components, search PsycINFO. 

PsycINFO is available two platforms, Ovid and APA PscyNET:

Additional Databases

In addition to searching the core health sciences database, you might also find it useful to expand your search in other, multidisciplinary sources:

If your research has a component related to education or training programs, you may find it useful to search the education literature:

For a more complete list of health sciences databases, visit the Find Articles/Databases page.

If your research focuses on pharmacology or drugs, you may find it useful to search EMBASE, a health database with good coverage of the pharmaceutical literature.

Databases for Background Information

Background information can be found in a variety of sources, but especially those sources that would be considered secondary sources, like review articles, evidence summaries, point-of-care tools, reference sources and recently published textbooks.  

Health Sciences - Specific

Consider the following databases if you are searching for background information in the health sciences.


You may also find it helpful to look for information on health sciences topics in broader, interdisciplinary resources, like those listed below:

For a complete list of databases that may provide helpful background information in the health sciences, see the Find Books/Syntheses/Background Info page.