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Follow a plan

Even though you might jump into google and do a couple of searches, it is a good idea to plan or map where you are going to search and what words you are going to use. 

Making a map or a plan is great for brainstorming and making connections between your ideas ie key words, and building your list of relevant terms as new words occur to you.

Mind mapping is particularly useful if your topic is fairly broad and might have different aspects to research. Use a mind map to identify additional questions that might flow from the research question.

Having a plan helps you to identify search terms and similar key words or terms and be consistent when searching in more than one search engine, catalogue or database.

AND you can also keep a record of the places you have searched. 

A map/plan is a great organising tool - everything is in one place.

A concept table or logic grid helps you identify search terms, is one way of visualising your search and helps you organise your search words.

Remember to:

Join different CONCEPTS with AND
Join different SYNONYMS with OR

My plan

Topic .................Is bariatric surgery beneficial for obese teenagers?

Concept 1AND Concept 2
gastric band/s/ing adolescent/s
  "young people"

Search these databases

Scopus Remember to check cited by links in Google Scholar and Scopus
maybe Cochrane Library and PubMed instead of Scopus? Add in the beneficial / quality of life terms if results are not specific enough or there are too  many results
Google Scholar   
PsycINFO? might have something about the psych effects?  
Child development & adolescent studies?



Some people prefer to structure keywords in their plan as:

 bariatric OR gastric band/s/ing  
ANDteen/teens/teenagers OR adolescence OR adolescent/s OR "young people" 
AND "quality of life" OR beneficial OR benefit/s

Watch the short Building Concept Tables video

Sometimes it is best to start simply, using the most obvious key words or concepts in your plan. If you get enough useful and relevant results you may not have to do further searching using more of your synonyms.

Example search preparation

This was the search prepared for an indepth research project on the impact of bariatric surgery on quality of life. In most cases you will not need this level of detail unless you are doing a systematic review or meta-analysis.

Terms related to
Terms related to
bariatric surgery
Terms related to
quality of life
  1. Search terms within columns were combined with OR, the three columns were combined with AND.


"over weight"


"over eating"


"weight loss"

weight reduc$



bariatric surgery

antiobesity surg$

obesity surg$

restrictive surgery



gastro gastrostomy

jejuno-ileal bypass

jejunoileal bypass

gastrointestinal diversion$

biliopancreatic diversion

bilio-pancreatic diversion

biliopancreatic bypass

bilio-pancreatic bypass

gastric band$

silicon band$


sleeve gastrectomy

gastric sleeve

LAGB stomach stapl$

lap band$


malabsorptive surg$

mason$ procedure


malabsorptive procedure$

duodenal switch$

"quality of life"




Lindekilde N, Gladstone BP, Lubeck M, Nielsen J, Clausen L, Vach W, et al. The impact of bariatric surgery on quality of life: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Obes Rev.2015;16(8):639-51. doi:10.1111/obr.12294

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