Anatomy & Physiology

This LibGuide will help you with resources and tips for your A/P course.

Research is a Process

Explore Research Topic Ideas

Whether you are working alone or in a group, the first step is choosing a topic.  If you are having trouble thinking of a topic you are interested in, browse the table of contents from your anatomy/physiology textbook and choose something that interested you (or your group) in class.  Write that topic down. Re-read that section in your textbook.  Then generate a list of questions about that topic.  Write down everything!  Reject nothing!

Example:  Spinal column

  • What are the most common injuries to the spinal column?
  • What are the most common treatments for those injuries?
  • What are 10 things people can do to preserve spinal column health?
  • What are common occupational factors leading to spinal column disorders?
  • What are some recommended exercises people can do to improve posture?
  • As we age, what are the possible consequences of lower intervertebral disc water content?
  • What does the path to recovery look like for someone who has broken a bone in his/her spinal column?
  • What is the history of the understanding or treatment of the spinal column?

These (and more!) are all researchable questions.

Once you have accomplished this, all you have to do is choose one! (note: Through the research process your question may change slightly.  This is normal!)

Strategize your Research

What you have done above is brainstorm a topic and narrow your focus.  Now you must figure out a way to research it.

Step 1: Brainstorm a list of search terms

Think of words and phrases relating to your topic or the concept you are researching. Consider broader and narrower terms, and synonyms (words that have the same meaning). You can look in specialized encyclopedias or dictionaries for help in finding terms that are used in your field of research.  Here is a partial list of terms used to discuss the spinal column:

Spinal column, vertebral column, spine, vertebra, vertebrae, backbone, cervical, thoracic, lumbar, sacral, coccyx

Step 2: Combine terms by using Boolean operators

When searching the library catalog, databases, or the internet, Boolean operators help you broaden or narrow your search and its results:

  • AND narrows your search (spine AND sports finds information on the spinal column that specifically pertains to athletics)
  • OR broadens your search (children OR teenagers finds both information on children or information on teenagers )
  • NOT excludes certain terms (used with other terms, such as fracture, cervical NOT hip finds information on cervical spine fractures, but not cervical hip fractures)

Use truncation symbols (usually ? or *) to capture all forms of words (rehab? will retrieve rehabilitate, rehabilitation and rehabilitating).

Step 3: Research! Find different sources to make your paper robust

See guides for Finding Books, Finding Articles, Finding Websites, and Finding Images for more details.

Step 4: Read and analyze the material you find

Evaluate the sources you’ve found, paying attention to their relevance, purpose, value, accuracy, and authors’ credibility.  As you start to create an outline of your project or paper, note areas where you need more information.

Step 5: Search again

Research is circular!  You may realize that the sources you initially found are incomplete.  Perhaps those sources are now leading your research down a slightly different path and you need to alter your research focus.  Perhaps you read book and found a citation to a journal article that seems perfect for your paper…time to do a bit more searching!

Step 6: Gather citations for your sources

As you’re doing research, you should write down bibliographic information (author, title, publisher, date of publication, journal name, volume, issue, database used, date you accessed the information)  This will enable you to be prepared to create a bibliography or “Works Cited” list.

  • In books, you’ll find this information collected on a “title page,” one of the first few pages.
  • Online journals usually print this information at the top of the page.
  • Print magazines and journals usually have this information on their covers.
  • Web pages are inconsistent in providing citation information, so ask a librarian for help if you have trouble locating it. 
  • See the guide for citing sources for more details


Gray's figure 527. Gray's Anatomy. 1918. Retrieved from