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Searching Fundamentals: Identify & Prioritize Concepts


 Identify and Prioritize the Key Concepts in Your Search Question

All searching begins with a question that you want to answer. Keep in mind that librarians are available to assist if you're struggling with how to formulate your idea into a searchable question.

For our purposes in the context of this guide we'll be using the following question:


Is acupuncture an effective intervention in the treatment of neck pain?


  • Once you have your question, identify the concepts you'll be searching for. In the question above the primary concepts, acupuncture and neck pain, are indicated in bold.

  • If you identify several concepts that are important, prioritize your list and begin your search with the two most important concepts first.

  • If you have too much retrieval after you complete the search cycle, continue to move down your prioritized list, incorporating additional concepts into your search one at a time.