TDNet Discover

How To Start Research

There are many paths one can go down when approaching research. While there is no wrong way to research, there are winding variations that can lead you down a rabbit hole rather than to a clear answer. Levels of evidence do exist, as does a hierarchy of journals and other publications.

This page will assist in understanding just what those differences are, how to avoid unscrupulous publishers, and generally how to discover what methods of research can work for you. 

Check these helpful websites for quick reference on Evidence-Based Medicine/Practice:

Best BETS - "BETs were developed in the Emergency Department of Manchester Royal Infirmary, UK, to provide rapid evidence-based answers to real-life clinical questions, using a systematic approach to reviewing the literature. BETs take into account the shortcomings of much current evidence, allowing physicians to make the best of what there is. Although BETs initially had an emergency medicine focus, there are a significant number of BETs covering cardiothoracics, nursing, primary care and paediatrics."

TRIP Medical Database - "Trip is a clinical search engine designed to allow users to quickly and easily find and use high-quality research evidence to support their practice and/or care. Trip has been online since 1997 and in that time has developed into the internet’s premier source of evidence-based content. Our motto is ‘Find evidence fast’ and this is something we aim to deliver for every single search. As well as research evidence we also allow clinicians to search across other content types including images, videos, patient information leaflets, educational courses and news."


Let us assume you have a topic you wish to research but have yet to begin your searches. Before you begin, you must have a clinical question formulated - this will direct how you phrase your research queries. This approach is known as the PICO model. 

P - Patient and/or Population

  • Who is your patient? Their age, sex, health history and problem at hand are all elements under this first category.

I - Intervention 

  • What is your treatment plan? Tests, potential prescriptions & procedures go here.

C - Comparison 

  • Which alternatives are available? What has come before in the literature?

O - Outcomes

  • What is your goal? Do you need to give a new, correct diagnosis? Stabilize a condition?

PICO Search

Avoiding Predatory Journals

No matter the discipline, from medicine to surgery to nursing, there will always lurk the shadow of the unlawful or predatory publisher. Theft of manuscripts, falsified data, copyright infringement, and a plethora of illegal activity surrounds the world of published research. But how does one tell the differences between a reputable title and a dangerous one?  

How to Avoid Predatory Journals - A Five Point Plan

Jocalyn Clark, BMJ Opinion, 2015.


Look into the National Library of Medicine catalog, see if a journal is indexed there. 

NLM Catalog


Think. Check. Submit. offers informative videos, checklists and useful tips on assessing a journal's credibility. 



Should you verify that a journal is a predatory journal, you can contact ExLibris and they will remove any content from that journal. And if the material is from an institution ExLibris will contact the institution to encourage them to remove the content.


Articles of Interest

Supporting Health Care Workers to Address Misinformation on Social Media

Vineet M. Arora, M.D., M.A.P.P., Eve Bloomgarden, M.D., and Shikha Jain, M.D.

May 5, 2022
N Engl J Med 2022; 386:1683-1685
DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp2117180

"Although the spread of misinformation has escalated during the Covid-19 pandemic, the propagation of deceptive medical claims is as old as the health care profession itself. The ease with which misinformation and disinformation (inaccurate information that is purposefully misleading) are spread by means of social media, however, presents new and complex challenges. A recent survey found that 95% of people in the United States perceived misinformation to be a problem and 41% were very or extremely worried that they were personally exposed to misinformation."


Beyond Citation Rates: A Real-Time Impact Analysis of Health Professions Education Research Using Altmetrics

Maggio, Lauren, Meyer, Holly & Artino, Anthony. (2017). Beyond Citation Rates: A Real-Time Impact Analysis of Health Professions Education Research Using Altmetrics. Academic Medicine, 92, 1449-1455.

"Traditionally researchers, including health professions education (HPE) investigators, have published research articles with the hope that colleagues will read and ultimately cite their work. In this dissemination model, citation counts are a measure of "scientific impact" and often rewarded in academia. However, citation-based metrics provide only a single view of a researcher's scientific impact, take years to accumulate, and may be poor indicators of practical impact in fields such as clinical medicine. Additionally, a citation-focused approach disregards calls from funders and the public for broader research dissemination outside academia. To meet this demand, stakeholders, including researchers, journals, and academic institutions, are sharing and promoting their research via alternative channels, such as news media, blogs, and social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter. While this dissemination approach may help broadcast research discoveries, use of these alternative communication channels is not captured by traditional citation counts. Alternative metrics, or altmetrics, have been developed to complement traditional citation-based metrics and provide a summary of how research is shared and discussed online, including by the public."


Critical Appraisal of a Systematic Review: A Concise Review

Patel, J. , Hill, A. , Lee, Z. , Heyland, D. & Stoppe, C. (2022). Critical Appraisal of a Systematic Review: A Concise Review. Critical Care Medicine, 50 (9), 1371-1379. doi: 10.1097/CCM.0000000000005602.



A systematic review is a review of a clearly formulated question that uses systematic and explicit methods to identify, select, and critically appraise relevant original research, and to collect and analyze data from the studies that are included in the review. Critical appraisal methods address both the credibility (quality of conduct) and rate the confidence in the quality of summarized evidence from a systematic review. The A Measurement Tool to Assess Systematic Reviews-2 tool is a widely used practical tool to appraise the conduct of a systematic review. Confidence in estimates of effect is determined by assessing for risk of bias, inconsistency of results, imprecision, indirectness of evidence, and publication bias.


Systematic reviews are transparent and reproducible summaries of research and conclusions drawn from them are only as credible and reliable as their development process and the studies which form the systematic review. Applying evidence from a systematic review to patient care considers whether the results can be directly applied, whether all important outcomes have been considered, and if the benefits are worth potential harms and costs.

Assessing Journals

NIH iCite Tool

Not all journals are created equal, and the traditional metric used by librarians to build their collections of peer-reviewed journals is known as The Journal Impact Factor (JIF). This measures the influence of particular journals, and examines the articles therein for their own level of influence. Such is called the relative citation ratio (RCR) developed by the NIH/NLM.

To discover the rating of an article, all you need is the MEDLINE citation (PMID) and input into the function linked below. But there is a caveat to be mindful of, very new articles take time to be assessed, so there is a latency period in rating listing. Also, said ratings go only back to MEDLINE citations from 1995 onward. Articles listed are considered within the benchmark for NIH funded research. 


The Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at the University of Oxford is a great place to download tools and other resources.  Access the site URL below:


While it is true that not all scholarly journals are created equal, not all have to rely on paywalls. Luckily, there exists a comprehensive list of open-access journals one can trust when looking for texts not available at your institution. The Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ), lists as many reputable and free titles as possible.