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Occupational Therapy PP-OTD

OT-891 Part 2: Modules 3-5

This supplementary content coincides with Modules 3 through 5 in your OT 891 D2L course. On this page you will find additional information on developing your search strategy and writing annotated bibliographies.

Keywords and Subject Headings


When you search with keywords, you are trying to find words that authors have used in their titles and abstracts or somehow otherwise appear in the article's entry in a database. Therefore you need to brainstorm all of the possible ways authors could refer to your concept:

"endurance" OR "physical fitness"

"education" OR "training" OR "school" OR "learning"

Subject Headings

You can also search using subject headings. Subject headings are keywords assigned by the databases to describe the concepts in an article and to try to take some of the guesswork out of the job of coming up with keywords. Try searching with subject headings and see how your results differ from searching with just keywords.

Still unsure about subject headings? Watch this video for another explanation as well as tips on how to find them.

Interested in text tutorials? Click the PDF links below:

Modifying an Unsuccessful Search

If you aren't happy with the list of articles your search brings back, here are some ways you might think about changing your search.

1. Too many articles / Articles aren't on topic

  • Make your topic more specific. You could add words to describe the
    • population
    • setting
    • treatment or intervention
    • outcome
  • Make your terms more specific. For example
    • "women" becomes "women over 50"
    • "analgesic" becomes "opioid"
    • "recovery" becomes "length of stay"

2. Too few articles

  • Make your topic less specific
    • focus on the core ideas (remove unnecessary details)
    • choose less specific terms ("exercise therapy" becomes "exercise")
  • Look for different search words 
    • synonyms - brainstorm synonyms (e.g. "length of stay" = "hospital stay") or different forms of a word (e.g. therapy, therapies, therapeutic)
    • scan abstracts and subject headings to find out which words authors and databases are using to describe your topic.

Photo by Anant Nath Sharma, used with permission under a Creative Commons license

Discipline Based Databases

Most databases in Academic Libraries are "discipline based," meaning they specialize in the literature from a specific discipline.  The features in these databases can be especially helpful when you need to create complex searches for a more comprehensive literature searches.





How to Write an Annotated Bibliography

Need Writing Help?

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Tools to help you Organize your Lit Review

Tools to Help you Organize your Literature Review

Literature Review Matrix

This type of matrix will help you see the content of all of your articles at a glance. Each row represents an article, and each column and element of the articles. Typical columns can include things like 

  • Research method
  • Sample size
  • Theoretical framework
  • Outcomes

However, the exact columns you chose depend on the elements of each study you want to discuss in your paper. You get to decide!

Here are couple of examples to give you a better idea.

Literature Synthesis Matrix

In essence a synthesis matrix is a way to organize your literature by theme, which is generally the way writers organize their whole literature reviews. The real benefit is that it helps you identify the articles that talk about the same themes so that you can write about them together in your literature review.

North Carolina State has a very nice description and example of the process. 

This YouTube video also explains the process.



Here is a template you can use (this one is in Word instead of PPT).