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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

SPHHS 681: The MPH Capstone

tips and tools for students enrolled in the online MPH program and working on their capstone


Hi! In this guide, I've put together a bunch of resources I think will help you as you work on your MPH Capstone project.

If you have any questions or want to set up an individual appointment, please don't hesitate to use the links in my profile box on the left. I am here to help you!

Ellen - Health Sciences Librarian

Getting Started

Figuring out the right scope for your topic/research question - not too narrow, but not too broad - can be a challenge. Doing some preliminary searching - and possibly several iterations of searches - before finalizing your topic can be a crucial part of the process.

  • If you get too many results, you might need to focus your topic more. Here are some ideas for narrowing it:
    • Scan the titles of recent articles to see what research is happening in this area. 
    • Check out the subject terms and/or keywords listed for research articles you find interesting and add them to your search. 
    • Think about ways to focus on a smaller pool of research: examples could be limiting by population, exposure/intervention, methodology, and/or outcome/results.
  • If you get too few results, you might need to expand your topic. Here are some ideas for broadening it:
    • Think about alternate terms that might be used for the key concepts in your research question and add them to your search.
    • Check out the subject terms listed for research articles that do come up to see if there are less focused terms you could use.
    • Think about ways to focus on a larger pool of research: examples could be looking at a wider age range or geographic area, including additional exposures/interventions, choosing a different methodology or outcome/result.

And before you get too frustrated - reach out to me and/or your instructor for suggestions!

Ellen's Tips for Doing Comprehensive Literature Searches

In this video, I share tips on methodology, performing searches (including a sample search), documenting searches, and mention a few tools that might be helpful. The document underneath covers the same content in written form.

Additional Resources

Two tools I recommend to help with processing & managing comprehensive literature reviews:

For additional tips and tools to use for comprehensive literature reviews, as well as suggested databases and resources for your area of interest, check out the guides below.