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Research Guides

ISEM301-Environments for Aging (Cerruti): Getting started on research

Overiew of research on aging topics

The topics related to environments of aging are interdisciplinary.  That means no one subject area or discipline encompasses the topics you will be searching for.  You will need to use a wide variety of sources from different disciplines to find relevant information.

Search strategy

To successfully search for information on your topic, it is best to determine the main concepts and then find keywords for those concepts. The keywords can become your search words.  In general, you should search library databases approximately 3 keywords, rather than your whole topic question or a sentence.  

For example, your research question is "What kind of design considerations could improve the quality of life for elderly Alzheimer's patients ?" Mark the keywords.

Then begin generating synonyms and related words to help you develop a search strategy.

design elderly Alzheimer's quality of life
interior design older people  dementia psychology
built environment gerontology memory loss happiness
architecture  aged cognition disorders accessible
  geriatrics   autonomy


In many databases, you could start your search by typing design elderly alzheimer's psychology and it would automatically turn that search into: 

design AND elderly AND alzheimer's AND psychology 

This is a search using Boolean logic


A more advanced Boolean search could be done like this:

(design OR "built environment") AND (elder* OR aged OR "older people") AND (dementia OR alzheimer's) AND ("quality of life" OR psychol*)

In this example the * will also find different endings for the words, such as elders, elderly or psychology, psychological.

Here are some more tips for choosing keywords.

You can also find additional keywords by searching your topic in a database, finding a relevant item and noting the terms used in the description of that item. 

Building Keywords (from Northwestern U)

Subject Guide

Diane Prorak's picture
Diane Prorak

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