Getting Started with Nursing Research


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Amanda Pruka
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Krueger Library 126

Information Sources

The information you use in your nursing research should match the purpose of your project. There are a variety of sources ranging from popular health articles to scholarly, peer-reviewed journals. For an intro to the difference between basic source types, see the video below. Keep reading below the video for information on article types that are specific to the field of nursing.

Information Sources in Health Sciences

News: anything published or broadcast by a news outlet. Many new channels have their own health sections with health information. It's important to know that not all health articles in the news are written by health professionals. When using health information from new sources, be sure to check the author and identify the purpose for which the article was written. 

Consumer health: articles written to help non-medical professionals understand issues related to their health. This includes information on diagnoses, prevention of disease, information on drugs and prescriptions, and home remedies. Like news articles, consumer health information isn't always written by health professionals, so it is important to identify the author and their authority on the topic they are writing about. 

Books and encyclopedias: these take an existing body of knowledge around specific health issues and topics and consolidate them into a larger body of work. Some books are written by and for medical professionals, some are written from a consumer health perspective. 

Trade publications: written for practicing health care professionals. Trade publications often contain information on professional development opportunities, newest research on practicing in the field or issues related to the field, controversies, and information on professional organizations. 

Journal articles: often written for scholarly audiences. Journal articles fall into two categories: original research and review articles

  • Original research articles present research on a specific topic or issue. They often follow the Introduction, Methods, Research, Discussion (IMRD) format and are very specific. 
  • Review articles examine many original research articles on a specific topic and write about how they contribute to the body of research as a whole. These articles are often systematic reviews and meta-analyses. They can also be clinical practice guidelines or EBP sheets. 


Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Literature

There are three main source types: primary, secondary, and tertiary. These distinctions are based on the originality of the research. 

Primary sources are the original source of information. They are often original research articles that discuss original findings and data. They can also be dissertations and theses, conference proceedings, and reports on clinical trials. 

Secondary sources often analyze the content of original research articles. They take the shape of systematic reviews, meta analyses, clinical practice guidelines, and other review articles.

Tertiary sources are the furthest you can get from the original research and are often books, encyclopedias, news articles, and trade publications. These sources take the larger body of existing research and discussion on a topic and combine it into a single body or work or extrapolate the information into brief articles about the topic. 

Primary Literature

Secondary Literature Tertiary Literature

Original research articles, clinical trials, dissertations,
conference proceedings

Systematic reviews, meta-analyses, review articles, clinical practice guidelines Books, encyclopedias, news articles, trade publications
Where to look: Science Direct, CINAHL - most academic databases while limiting to "research article." 
Many (but not all) peer-reviewed journal articles with an IMRD format are original research articles.
Where to look: Cochrane Library, PubMed, CINAHL while limiting to source type Where to look: Gale Virtual Reference, Credo, EBSCO ebooks, Google, professional orgs


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