Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

BIO 218: Understanding Cancer: Formulating the Research Strategy

Online resource guide for BIO 218 Understanding Cancer. Includes links to the MCC Library Catalog and medical databases where students can find full text articles and other scholarly materials.

Identifying Keywords and Sample Searches

Your search strategy begins by identifying keywords and phrases that define your search topic. Write down these keywords and phrases; you will be typing them into our subscription databases to find scholarly journal articles on your topic as well as our online catalog to find hard copy and electronic books.  For your final fusion project start with the list of common types of cancer.  Once you have chosen a topic, read the course objectives and the Final Fusion Project guidelines. You will be identifying keywords such as genetic risk, biology, surgery, radiation therapy, epidemiology, etiology, chemotherapy, biotherapy, hormones, complementary medicine, alternative medicine, cancer treatment, diagnosis, and tumor staging (as examples) to find peer reviewed and scholarly journal articles.  To find the greatest number of articles on your topic, simply type the particular cancer that you are researching in the search box.  It will look like this:

  • lung cancer
  • breast cancer
  • pancreatic cancer

 To narrow down your search, you can use the connector "AND" to combine subject terms and key phrases and keywords:

  • breast cancer AND genetic risk
  • lung cancer AND radiation therapy
  • cancer care AND cultural differences
  • treatment AND liver cancer

Or, you can simply type subject terms and keywords without the "AND" connector and your search will automatically include all search terms:

  • epidemiology liver cancer prevention
  • chemotherapy breast cancer
  • tumor cells detection bladder cancer
  • cervical cancer clinical trials


In scholarly, peer-reviewed articles that contain original research, you will find keywords provided by the author/s of the article.  These keywords will help you locate other articles on your topic by providing alternative search terms.  In the following article from Psychology, Health & Medicine, keywords circled in red include breast cancer, BRCA1/2, uncertainty, genetic testing, and psycho-oncology.

Feel free to explore different possibilities by typing in different subject terms.  There is no right or wrong term to use.  Some articles will be exactly what you are looking for or you may find that some articles identify your search terms but are unrelated to your topic.  If that happens, refine your search and select different keywords.  If you are having difficulty formulating a search strategy please speak with an MCC reference librarian.