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HHP 3100 Applied Research Methods-SORT Students

This guide is for the SORT cohort of students who take HHP 3100.

Research Basics

How to Search

Literature searching for HHP 3100 SORT may be different than some of the other searching you have done in English classes or even in some of your other HHP courses. The following section will walk you through the process of creating an effective search for an example research question.

Sample Research Question: Do urban parks help to relieve stress and, if so, what are the elements of the parks that serve to reduce stress?

Building a Search Strategy

STEP 1: Determine the major concepts of the research question.

To construct a good search, we first need to break the sample research question down into its most important components. Our example question is really two questions in one: Do urban parks relieve stress and, if so, what elements are responsible?


The major concepts in the research question are urban parks elements and stress relief. These are known as KEYWORDS.

STEP 2: Convert keywords to "database language".

Sometimes, the way we express ideas with words is not the same as the way databases represent these ideas. For example, using the word "happy" in a database will get some results, but a more "scholarly" term is "satisfaction". Let's take a look at how we might work with our example question to find "database" terms.


In our example question, "urban park elements" would do better as "urban parks attributes", but would probably locate more results using simply "parks" and "stress relief" might translate better to "stress reduction".

STEP 3: Find synonyms & related terms

This step may be the most important in conducting an effective search. Flexibility is key when searching the literature. For example, when searching the above keywords in a library database, only one article is found when using "urban parks" and "stress reduction", but if the search is altered to "parks" and "stress reduction OR stress management OR stress OR coping", we get over 1,000 results!

Find synonyms using:

  1. The Internet: Is your search term or concept called anything else? Look it up in an online encyclopedia to find out, or just "Google it".
  2. Other background sources: You can also easily find synonyms in other background sources, including your lecture notes and textbooks. 
  3. Use database subject headings: SPORTDiscus is a primary database for Health & Human Performance. If you run a search and find a good article, look at the subject terms listed with the article. Use those terms in subsequent searches. Also, in SPORTDiscus and other databases, as you are typing your search terms in the search box, a big list of synonyms for the word will appear (just like in Google).


Synonyms & related terms for "stress reduction":

  • stress management
  • stress relief
  • stress prevention
  • coping (related term
  • coping mechanisms (related term)
  • health benefits (related term)
  • stress (related term)

STEP 4: Create your search

When creating your search, use the steps above to find lots of different keywords and combinations. 


A couple of different ways to build our search might be:

"urban parks OR parks OR outdoor spaces OR public parks" AND "stress reduction OR stress management OR health benefits"

"parks" AND "stress reduction OR stress prevention OR stress management"

There are many more combinations you can try until you get the correct one!

Where to Search

Searching for HHP Research Methods for SORT is a little different than what you may be used to in your other HHP classes and what you learned in your Scientific Writing course. You will still use some familiar databases, but may use some unfamiliar ones also. Some descriptions of why you might use each database are listed below and then links to the databases are at the bottom of the page in BLUE. Tip sheets for some of these databases are available to the right of this box.

SPORTDiscus: Though heavily sport focused, this database will also have tourism and outdoor recreation articles. 

Sociological Abstracts: Exploring values, beliefs, and attitudes fits squarely in the realm of sociology. Many students will find this database more useful than SPORTDiscus.

PsycInfo with Psyc Articles: Many HHP 3100 SORT topics have an element of psychology, like happiness, satisfaction, self-esteem, and more. This Psychology database will have very different articles than what you might find in SPORTDiscus.

ABI Inform & Business Source Premier: Almost every topic has an economic angle and a big part of sport and tourism is tied to economics. Both of these databases cover business and economics; you can use either one, but probably won't need to use both.

Statistical Abstracts of the U.S.: Covers social, political, and economic related statistics for the U.S. population. Will be useful in finding population numbers, obesity stats, numbers of parks, etc.

Google Scholar: Every research paper needs some Google Scholar, just don't make it the first place you visit.

Is the Article I Found Relevant?

Determining if an article is relevant to your research needs can be a BIG challenge. Here are a few questions to ask yourself to help with determining relevancy:

1. What is this article about? The title is your first clue to relevancy and it should directly relate to your research topic. Next, read the abstract, which should give you a good summary of the article. These two elements combined should tell you what the article is about.

2. Does the date affect relevancy? Consider whether the article's date affects its overall relevancy. Is the article on topic but perhaps out of date for how people view a phenomenon in current times? Has new and better information come to light since the publication of the article?

3. What type of article is this? Try to determine whether you have a research article (where actual research was performed), a review article (reports on several research articles about a given topic), a magazine article, a conference proceeding, etc. You will likely be required to mostly use research articles.

4.  Is the article highly specific, or more general? General articles are great, but may not always relate directly to your research. On the other hand, other articles may be so specific that they aren't very relevant to your research topic. Consider the elements of an article that you CAN relate back to your research.


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