Nutrition and Dietetics

Welcome to the Library's research guide for nutrition. The guide is designed to provide information on library resources that support the University's Department of Nutrition and Dietetics and other programs in the Brooks College of Health.

UNF Nutrition students


Welcome to the Library's research guide for Nutrition and Dietetics. This guide is designed to assist students and faculty in discovering and navigating the library resources that support the University's Department of Nutrition and Dietetics and other programs in the Brooks College of Health.

Nutrition and Dietetics

UNF Carpenter Library


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Explanation of PICOT's acronym

  Image Reused with permission of Hawaii Pacific University

Formulating a PICOT question is the first step in the process of carrying out a focused literature review and analysis of evidence.

PICOT is an acronym for the elements of the clinical question: a way of asking a clinical question that will help guide the search for evidence.


P = Patient population of interest: Identify patients by age, gender, ethnicity, disease or health problem

I = Intervention of interest (can also be issue of interest that has no comparison): Which intervention is worthwhile to use in practice? Which issue is studied (e.g. a treatment, diagnostic test, prognostic factor)?

C = Comparison of interest (you do not always have a comparison): What is the usual standard of care or current intervention used now in practice?

O = Outcome: What results do you wish to achieve or observe as a result of an intervention (e.g. change in patient behavior, physical findings, patient perception)?

T = Time (you do not always have a time frame): What amount of time is needed for an intervention to achieve an outcome (e.g. the amount of time needed to change quality of life or patient behavior)?


Example of a PICO(T) Question

"How effective is the consumption of low glycemic index foods for reducing energy intake and promoting weight loss in adults?

Population Adults
Intervention Consumption of low glycemic index foods
Comparison No comparison

Weight loss, and reduced energy intake


The scenario will help you to develop a PICOT Question: 

Scenario: A 47 year old woman comes to see you. She is overweight, concerned about her overall health, and would like to lose weight quickly. She has heard a report on the radio suggesting that resistant corn or potato starch can reduce obesity. You begin to investigate any evidence to support this.

Population: overweight adults

Intervention: resistant starch

Comparison: ordinary starch

Outcome: weight loss

Time: N/A

PICOT Question: In overweight adults, how does resistant starch compared with ordinary starch effect weight loss?

Structured Searching PICO Worksheet


Watch: Finding the Evidence 2 Turning Search Terms into Search Strategies

Credit: Bodleian Libraries

University of Oxford



Search Strategy: A search strategy is an organized structure of key terms used to search a database. PICO(T) is part of your search strategy. The search strategy combines the key concepts of your search questions in order to retrieve accurate results. NYU LibGuide  provides students with a thorough overview of the Search Strategy. This LibGuide includes Boolean worksheets.

Researchers use Boolean Logic to combine search terms. 

Most databases allow the use of AND, OR and NOT to broaden or narrow and search. 

  • AND will narrow the search to include only records with both terms. 
  • OR with broaden the search to include records with either term.
  • NOT will narrow the search to exclude records with one of the terms.

Truncation:  You can use an * at the end of a word stem to broaden your search to include related terms.  For example, to search for child, children or childhood use the search term child*

Putting quotes "" around words allows you to search for a phrase.  For example, searching language development, without quotes, finds records with both the word 'language' and 'development' somewhere in the record.  Searching "language development", with quotes, only find records with the phrase "language development".

Here is a sample search that uses the quotation marks to keep the words overweight and adults next to one another; hence only articles with those terms side-by-side will show up in the result list. Furthermore, this search will only pull up articles with the terms dietary and supplements next to one another.  


Sample search using quotation marks


Limiters: Use limiters to hone in on topics. Health/Nursing databases provide many limiters. CINAHL's limiters enables you to limit by peer-reviewed, geography, age, sex, human study, evidence based practice, etc.

Screencast of CINAHL's limiters


The PICO(T) question is the catalyst to your research:

1. PICOT Question:

How effective is the consumption of low glycemic index foods for reducing energy intake and promoting weight loss in adults?


Screen shot of PICOT Question in an Advanced Cinahl database search



Subject Searching

Subject searching is a more precise way to search, particularly when your search term can have more than one meaning. Every item in a database is assigned specific subject headings using a controlled vocabulary, which can vary by database. Most medical databases use MeSH (Medical Subject Headings), which is continually updated by the National Library of Medicine. MeSH uses a hierarchical system that allows for easy broadening or narrowing of topics. CINAHL uses subject headings unique to the database that use the same structure. 

MESH Subject Headings- ​

MeSH is the National Library of Medicine's controlled vocabulary thesaurus. It consists of sets of terms naming descriptors in a hierarchical  structure that permits searching at various levels of specificity.

MeSH descriptors are arranged in both an alphabetic and a hierarchical structure. At the most general level of the hierarchical structure are very broad headings such as "Anatomy" or "Mental Disorders." More specific headings are found at more narrow levels of the thirteen-level hierarchy, such as "Ankle" and "Conduct Disorder." There are over 28,000 descriptors in MeSH with over 90,000 entry terms that assist in finding the most appropriate MeSH Heading, for example, "Vitamin C" is an entry term to "Ascorbic Acid." In addition to these headings, there are more than 240,000 Supplementary Concept Records (SCRs) within a separate file. Generally SCR records contain specific examples of chemicals, diseases, and drug protocols. They are updated more frequently than descriptors. Each SCR is assigned to a related descriptor via the Heading Map (HM) field. The HM is used to rapidly identify the most specific descriptor class and include it in the citation.

CINAHL Subject Headings-

The CINAHL subject headings are based on the MeSH headings, with additional specific nursing and allied health headings added as appropriate. Each year, the headings are updated and revised relative to terminology needed in these fields. In addition, new terms from MeSH may be added as well.



Watch: Use MeSH to Build a Better PubMed Query


Credits: National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI)


Watch: How to Save and Print Searches in PubMed and Cinahl (Memorial University Library)

Your instructor will often request that you track your search terms.  Many databases offer a "Search History" option.  This brief tutorial will show you how to save and print your search history in PubMed and Cinahl. 


Note: Additionally, you can save your searches within Cinahl and PubMed. In Cinahl, you have the option to create a My EBSCOhost folder; In PubMed you can save your searches within a NCBI account.  Other nursing databases offer similar options. 

There are several tools that help organize the systematic review process.  While many researchers use a spreadsheet to do this, others prefer a specialized instrument.  Some require a paid subscription, others are free of charge.  Each product has its own strengths, and as every research project is different, we do not recommend one over the other.   All are web-based. 


Covidence:  "A web-based software platform that streamlines the production of systematic reviews, including Cochrane Reviews. Citation screening, Full text review, Risk of Bias assessment, Extraction of study characteristics and other study data, Export of data into RevMan. Nonprofit organization, open source software." (first SR free for 2 reviewers, then fee-based)




Distiller"DistillerSR is the the world’s most used systematic review software. It was designed from the ground up to give you a better review experience, faster project completion and transparent, audit-ready results." (fee-based) 


JBI SUMARI: "The System for the Unified Management, Assessment and Review of Information (SUMARI) is the Joanna Briggs Institute's premier software for the systematic review of literature. It is designed to assist researchers and practitioners in fields such as health, social sciences and humanities to conduct systematic reviews. SUMARI supports 10 review types, including reviews of effectiveness, qualitative research, economic evaluations, prevalence/incidence, aetiology/risk, mixed methods, umbrella/overviews, text/opinion, diagnostic test accuracy and scoping reviews. It facilitates the entire review process, from protocol development, team management, study selection, critical appraisal, data extraction, data synthesis and writing your systematic review report. Essentially, it is a word processor, reference management program, statistical and qualitative data analysis program all in one easy to use web application." (fee-based)



Rayyan"Rayyan is a web application to help systematic review authors perform their job in a quick, easy and enjoyable fashion. Authors create systematic reviews, collaborate on them, maintain them over time and get suggestions for article inclusion." (free; new)


Additional Resources:

AMSTARAMSTAR is a tool to evaluate the quality of an existing systematic review. AMSTAR stands for A Measurement Tool to Assess Systematic Reviews. It is an excellent indication of how other researchers will evaluate your systematic review.

Brown School of Public Health provides a list of additional resources for systematic reviews and meta-analysis.

What is Prisma?

PRISMA is an evidence-based minimum set of items for reporting in systematic reviews and meta-analyses. PRISMA focuses on the reporting of reviews evaluating randomized trials, but can also be used as a basis for reporting systematic reviews of other types of research, particularly evaluations of interventions.


Flowchart of Prisma Process



Prisma Homepage

Prisma Flow Diagram Generator



Step 1: Preparation To complete the the PRISMA diagram print out a copy of the diagram to use alongside your searches. It can be downloaded from the PRISMA website. You will need to print a copy for your totals, but you may want to print out a copy for each database you search as well. If you are using this system for a more advanced assignment, ask your supervisor whether they would like you to follow this system, or to specify totals for each individual database in your final PRISMA diagram.


Step 2: Doing the database search For each database enter each key search term individually. This should include ALL your search terms, including MeSH or CINAHL headings, truncation (like hemipleg*) and wildcard (like sul?ur) search terms. Combine all the search terms in the different combinations using boolean operators like AND or OR as appropriate. Apply all your limits (such as years of search, English language only, and so on). Once all search terms have been combined and you have applied all relevant limits, you should have a number of records or articles. Enter this in the top left box of the PRISMA flow chart for each database. If you have searched databases individually, add all the 'records identified' up and fill this total number in the PRISMA flow diagram which you will use for your coursework. Remember this process of adding up the number of records in individual database searches to a total  will need to be repeated at each step if you search databases separately.

PRISMA additional sources


Step 3: Additional sources If you have identified articles through other sources than databases (like manual searches through reference lists of articles you have found or Search engines like Google Scholar), enter the total number of records in the box on the top right of the flow diagram.

PRISMA diagram showing duplicates removed box


Step 4: Remove all duplicates To avoid reviewing duplicate articles, you need to remove any articles that appear more than once. You will need to go through all the records or articles you have found in the database and manually remove any duplicates. This is not easy to do if you have a large number of articles at this point. In this case you may want to export the entire list of articles to RefWorks (including citation and abstract) and remove the duplicates there. Enter the number of records left after you have removed the duplicate in the second box from the top.

PRISMA records screened


Step 5: Screening articles The next step is to add in the number of articles that you have screened. This is the same number as you have entered in the duplicates removed box.

PRISMA records excluded box


Step 6: Screening - Excluded articles You will now need to screen the titles and abstracts for articles which are relevant to your research question. Any articles that appear to help you provide an answer to your research question should be included. Record the number of articles excluded based on this screening process in the appropriate box (next to the total number of screened records) with a short reason for excluding these articles.

PRISMA eligability box


Step 7: Eligibility Subtract the number of excluded articles following the screening phase (step 6) from the total number of records screened (step 5) and enter this number in the box titled "Full-text articles assessed for eligibility". Get the full text for these articles to review for eligibility. 

PRISMA full text articles excluded


Step 8: Eligibility - Records excluded Review all full-text articles for eligibility to be included in the final review. Remember you should be left with 6-8 papers at this point. Take a note of the number of articles that you exclude at this point and enter this number in the correct box titled: Full text articles excluded and write in a short reason for excluding the articles (this may be the same reason used for the screening phase).

PRISMA articles excluded


Step 9: Included The final step is to subtract the number of excluded articles or records during the eligibility review of full-texts (step 8) from the total number of articles reviewed for eligibility (step 7). Enter this number in the final box. You have now completed your PRISMA flow diagram which you can now include in the results section of your assignment.

PRISMA final articles

Credits: UNC Health Library  

Refworks icon

RefWorks is an online citation management tool that allows you to collect, manage and organize research papers and documents.

With RefWorks, you can:

  • Collect & Import: Save an unlimited number of references by importing from online databases, catalogs, websites, and your computer
  • Manage your Research: Organize, retrieve, read and annotate documents and references
  • Share & Collaborate: Share folders and work with others simultaneously
  • Write & Cite: Generate bibliographies and citations in thousands of citation styles, including MLA, APA and Turabian

Creating an Account

  1. From the UNF Library homepage, select My Accounts. Select RefWorks. 
  2. Click on "Create Accounts."Enter your institutional ( or email address.
  3. Since UNF subscribes to RefWorks, you’ll receive a “success” message and you will be asked to create a password.  Your institutional email becomes your login name.
  4. An activation email will be sent and you’ll need to validate your account to continue.
  5. When you click on the link in the activation email, you will be directed back to RefWorks to enter your name, role and department affiliation.  You’ll also be asked if you’d like to install the “Save to RefWorks” browser bookmarklet (a great way to capture data from web pages!) and if you’d like to install one of the paper writing helpers (Write-N-Cite for Word or RefWorks Add-on for Google Docs).  
  6. You’ll be brought directly into your new account and are ready to begin adding your research. Exporting materials into RefWorks enables one to stay organized and create a rough draft bibliography/works-cited page. 


Watch: Adding References Using Direct Export



Visit the RefWorks LibGuide for more information.

Subjects: Nutrition
Tags: dietetics, nutrition

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