Search strategies for qualitative research

From the Health Development Agency in London:

As a Public Health organisation, we (the Health Development Agency) focus in finding the evidence on the effectiveness of non-clinical interventions such as counselling/ health education/ behaviour change/policy change/ legislation/ media campaigns etc. The core type of questions we formulate for the research we carry out are of the type: What public health interventions (policy/law/education/counselling) are effective in helping a particular group of people (e.g. manual workers) stop smoking? The research question is then constructed, generally, in the following way: 1. General and specific terms to describe the topic. E.g. Smoking/cigarettes/tobacco/ etc 2. Outcome terms: cessation/ prevention/ rehabilitation etc 3. 3a. Topic specific health promotion/prevention interventions. E.g. Packaging/sponsorship/licensing/taxation 3b. General health promotion/prevention interventions. E.g. Behaviour therapy/preventative health services/health education/lifestyle change/ attitude change/ counselling/ etc 4. Target population. E.g. “manual workers” or a particular socio-economic group, as we tend to focus on disadvantaged groups. 5. Setting (if we are interested in interventions taking place in a particular setting). E.g. workplace/hospitals/family/help lines/websites/communities 6. Exclusions. E.g. “nicotine replacement therapy” – as we are not interested in clinical interventions 7. Limits (year and language) The different search parts are then linked as ((((1 ADJ 2) AND (3a OR 3b)) AND 4) AND 5) NOT 6) AND 7)))) Please note that the combination of 1 and 2 has been simplified above. In some databases these terms are automatically linked by a subject heading (e.g. “Smoking Cessation” is a Mesh heading); then 1 and 2 text words may have to be linked term by term: “(smoking adj cessation) OR (tobacco adj use adj cessation) OR (cigarette adj use adj cessation) and so on.


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