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Exercise & Sport Science Research Guide

Starting points for research in sport and exercise science


Use multiple databases/search engines.  There will be overlap in what you find, but each will have something unique.   The following should be helpful for most if not all searches.

MEDLINE ( not necessarily the same database as PubMed, PubMed contains more articles than MEDLINE)

Extrapolation is key.  Keep in mind that you may have to pull pieces of information from various articles to make your point.  You may not – probably won’t – find the perfect article that sums up your position.  (If you do find that perfect article, it actually means that you should pick another topic as someone has beaten you to the idea!)

Take notes as you go.  It’s really hard to find or document things after the fact.  (I’ve found this out the hard way!)  So tract where you search, the terms you use, and the citations you find as you go.  Paper or online doesn’t matter.  Just track it.  Zotero can help with tracking your citations. 

Also, if an article looks *remotely* useful, make note of it.  It’s always easier to cross it off later than try to find it again.  (Sometimes you can’t find it again.  I’ve learned that the hard way too.)

Other Search Strategies

Common database searching strategies:




(asterisk, *)

Enter The ROOT of a search term and replace the ending with the asterisk symbol (*)

pediat* Retrieves pediatrics, pediatric, pediatra, etc.

Phrase searching (double quotes)

Use quotation marks when searching for phrases.

“athletic training” Retrieves these terms in the exact order.

Combining Terms and Operators

Start with one concept at a time.  That way you can mix and match search sets.  Start with one and add the others one at a time. You might need to mix and match them in different combinations. Also, you might find that you can only use two concepts together out of three.  When you have multiple concepts it’s easy to end up with nothing. 

Combine terms with OR to get more results.   If there isn’t much on your topic, combine terms ( e.g.  subject terms & the keyword terms) with OR to find the most articles.  A search on walking aids might look like this: 
   walkers OR canes OR crutches OR walking aid

Combine terms with AND to get fewer results & to bring topics together.  To combine the search on walking aids with the topic of hip fracture, you need to combine the two searches with an AND.

    walkers OR canes OR crutches OR walking aid       

Then, build your search strategy by combining the main concepts (and other keywords, if preferred) with operators (i.e., AND, OR). Use OR for synonyms or related keywords.  Whe using OR, use parenthesis to help group terms together.

You can type the terms on the search box:   (walkers OR canes OR crutches OR walking aid) AND hip fracture





Finds specific words anywhere, retrieves FEWER results,

severe sepsis AND Fluid therapy


Finds related/synonyms words, retrieves MORE search results

(Fluid Volume Excess OR Fluid-Electrolyte Imbalance)