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Exercise Science Research Guide

Step #2 Articulate your topic clearly

Step #2

Articulate your research topic as a question

  • State your research question as specifically and clearly as possible.
  • Try to express all aspects of your questions
  • You may need some background research on your topic to be fully informed about your topic and question. Seek out a non-research journal on your topic. A book chapter or clinical database such as UpToDate.

Example Question

Does stretching before exercise prevent injuries?


Step #3

Consider synonyms to add to the words used in the question.

  • Successful searching is all about language. You need to match the words you use in your search with the words used by the article authors and database indexers.
  • Do you need to include alternate endings for your search words (stretch, stretches, stretching)?
  • Do you need to include words that have similar meanings (exercise, sports).
  • Some databases have tools like a Thesaurus or Subject Headings that can help you find similar words to use in your search.
  • Once you start searching you may find more words in titles and abstracts and subject headings to try in your search.


Does stretching before exercise prevent injuries?

  • P = people who exercise; plurals? physical activity? sports? athelete?
  • I = stretching before exercise; stretch?
  • C = no stretching
  • O = injury prevention; injuries? sprain? strain? prevent? preventing?

Identify Question Parts

Step #4

‚ÄčIdentify Questions Part

Analyze the parts of your question. What different aspects does it have?

Clinical and social science questions often have these aspects:

  • People/population/problem
  • Intervention
  • Comparisons
  • Outcomes

If the PICO model does not seem to fit your question, still try to identify the distinct parts of your question, perhaps the Who, What, Why.


Does stretching before exercise prevent injuries?

  • People/population/problem = people who exercise
  • Intervention = stretching before exercise
  • Comparisons = no stretching
  • Outcomes = injury prevention