Information Fluency

Identify Primary Concepts

Primary concepts or keyterms can be identified using the PICO formula from Step 1. Each of the PICO elements can form a primary concept. If your PICO does not have a Comparison or Outcome (the outcome is broad or vague) element, it is okay to leave these concepts. 


P: adolescents with depression

I: Prozac

C: Zoloft

O: n/a

Gather Synonymes

For each primary concept identified, make a list of other terms with the same or related meaning (synonyms). It is important to gather synonyms, because

  • Terms have different spellings, plural forms, acronyms, full form of acronyms 

  • Concepts are described inconsistently across time, geographies or even among researchers

  • Terms have same/close meaning, disciplinary jargon

  • Umbrella terms vs specific names

These terms will form the textwords of your search strategy. 


Concepts Synonyms
adolescents teen, teens, teenager, adolescence, youth
depression depressive, depressions
Prozac fluoxetine, fluoxetin, sarafem,
Zoloft sertraline, altruline, lustral, sealdin, gladem

Tips for finding synonyms:

  • use a thesaurus
  • think of specific examples or types
  • use background information to help brainstorm (e.g. encyclopedia, Wikipedia)
  • mine relevant articles for keywords and subject headings 
  • use "Used For" terms in MeSH (see Step 3)