Skip to Main Content

Master of Public Health Program: MPH

Research Basics

Getting Help

Whether it's online or in person, you can always get help from the Library!

Research Consultations

Need help with research for a paper or perhaps a multimedia assignment? Schedule an appointment with a Librarian, either in-person or online using Zoom. Click on the green box labeled "Make a Research Appointment" on the right of this screen.


Chapel Cowden is the Health & Science Librarian at UTC. Contact her via email at While email is a great way to get in touch and get the research ball rolling, Chapel will likely ask you to meet with her online using Zoom which offers a richer learning experience.

Online Chat Service

Need an answer quickly and it's after 5pm? Use the Library's chat service! Our chat service allows to you live chat with a real librarian who can answer your research questions. The service is open any time the Library is open (until midnight on most nights). You can also text us at 423-521-0564.

Searching the Literature

Deep searching often requires advanced search techniques. In health and medical research there are often terms that have a variety of synonyms and related concepts. The following information can be used in any type of research (and works on Google too!), but is particularly good for health and medical searching.

Build a Search Strategy

Each of the following sections will help you build and properly conduct a search for relevant literature.

Search Commands (AND, OR, & NOT)

Search commands can be used in Library databases, but also work really well in Google! They are important for creating efficient, effective searches.

Command Purpose Example Search Visualization

Expands the search.

Used to string synonyms together.

Results include all articles with any of the terms used.

Hand washing


Hand Hygiene

(all results including the words "hand washing" as well as all results including the words "hand hygiene")

venn diagram - union of two sets with search terms 'hand washing' and 'hand hygiene'

Narrows the search.

All retrieved results must include all terms connected with AND.

AND usually combines different concepts together in one search.

AND is assumed between words in Google.

Hospital infection



(only results that include both the terms "hospital infection" and "antibiotic")

venn diagram - intersection of two sets with search terms 'hospital infection' and 'antibiotic'

Excludes results with a specific term.

Really handy to eliminate unwanted search results.




(all results with the term "antibiotic", but excluding those with the term "penicillin")

venn diagram - relative compliment of terms 'antibiotic' not 'penicillin'

Example Search

Let's take an example research question and break it down into a good search strategy.

Does hand washing amongst healthcare workers reduce healthcare facility acquired infections? 

Synonyms for Concept #1  Hand washing OR Handwashing OR Hand hygiene OR Hand disinfection
Synonyms for Concept #2  Healthcare facility acquired infection OR Hospital acquired infections OR Nosocomial infections OR Healthcare associated infections
Synonyms for Concept #3  Healthcare workers OR Health personnel OR Healthcare provider OR Health professional

The idea here is to combine synonyms and concepts in different ways for multiple searches. Combining your terms should reduce the overall number of searches needed. Example search strategies:

  • (Hand washing OR Handwashing OR hand hygiene) AND (nosocomial infections OR cross infection) AND (Health personnel OR Healthcare workers)
  • (Hand washing OR Handwashing) AND (nosocomial infections OR cross infection)
  • Pretty much any way you can think of to combine your terms is a good idea!



Databases for Public Health Research

Below you will find databases that will prove helpful in your public health research. In general, they are ordered by relevance to public health. For example, PubMed is the largest database of medical and biomedical research and is the best place for most health science research.  PsycInfo, further down the list, is more niche and is useful if you are looking at any aspect of mental health or compliance. It's best to utilize multiple databases for research--a single database will never fully explore a single topic or research question. 

If you have questions or need help with research, use the Research Help box to the right to Make a Research Appointment.

Health Data & Stats

Health data and statistics are everywhere but can sometimes be difficult to find quickly. The following list contains trusted health and data stats at the international, national, and local levels in addition to UTC Library stats & data resources. Note that the national list will also contain relevant data for the state of Tennessee.

Local Health Data & Statistics

Tennessee Department of Health Data and Statistics

Comprehensive State of Tennessee data and statistics.

Hamilton County Health Department

A variety of health resources, including data, from the Hamilton County Health Department.

National Health Data & Statistics

CDC Data & Statistics 

A one-stop shop for public health data and statistics organized by topic.

CDC Diseases & Conditions

Consumer and practitioner information on diseases and other disease-related conditions organized by topic.

CDC National Center for Health Statistics

Population and provider surveys, vital records (including the National Death Index), historical surveys, in addition to data tools, visualizations, analysis aids, and more.


The Agency for Health Research & Quality's data offerings include various health data resources, infographics, and state snapshots related to the various costs of healthcare.

International Health Data & Statistics

WHO World Health Data Platform

Global health data from the World Health Organization.

UTC Library Data & Stats Resources


Statistics portal providing access to quantitative data on media, business, finance, politics, and a wide variety of other areas of interest or markets.

Historical Statistics of the U.S.

Compilation of the most important economic, social, and political statistics from the Statistical Abstracts of the U.S., extending as far back as the Colonial period.

Statistical Abstract of the US

Comprehensive summary of the social, political, and economic organization of the United States. Coverage from 2013-Present.

Statistical Abstracts of the World

Comprehensive summary of statistics on social, politcial and economic conditions from 65+ countries.

Helpful Research Tools

There are many tools that can help you with research tasks. Below are some critical tools that the university subscribes to and that are available to you.

SAGE Research Methods

A how-to database that guides users through the research process. All aspects of research from research methods to data collection and analysis are covered. Content includes ebooks, cases, videos, practice datasets and tools to help you get started with original research.


EndNote is a citation management software program designed to help insert citations into a paper in any style. The University of Tennessee maintains a campus-wide annual subscription for EndNote and it is available at no cost to students, staff, and faculty. Chapel Cowden, the librarian who works with the MPH Program, also teaches EndNote. If you have an interest in learning EndNote or would like to request an online workshop for your cohort, email her at


SPSS is a software package used for interactive, or batched, statistical analysis. A copy can be obtained from the university at no charge. In addition, SPSS is installed on most university computers.

Research Help

Ask a Librarian