How to do research on nursing? Nursing is one of the fastest-growing professions today. Increasingly, research and literature is being published that discusses the administration, policies, principles, practices, ethics, methodologies, values, and effectiveness of nursing. Heading the list are literature indexes and computer databases containing bibliographic records and full-text newspaper and journal articles, conference proceedings, pamphlets, scholarly dissertations, and other printed or non-printed sources. They include databases that are fully searchable by subject, author, keyword, or title enabling researchers to locate clinical articles by experts and scholars, original studies by researchers, and consumer-oriented material. This article highlights selected references on nursing research papers.
Selected Subject Headings
Listed below is a sample of a few broad Library of Congress subject headings—made up of one word or more representing concepts under which all library holdings are divided and subdivided by subject—which you can search under and use as subject terms when searching online library catalogs for preliminary and/or additional research, such as books, audio and video recordings, and other references, related to your research paper topic. When researching materials on your topic, subject heading searching may be more productive than searching using simple keywords. However, keyword searching when using the right search method (Boolean, etc.) and combination of words can be equally effective in finding materials more closely relevant to the topic of your research paper.
Suggested Research Topics in Nursing
- Disaster Nursing
- Geriatric Nursing
- Nursing Care Plans
- School Nursing
- Visiting Nurses
Selected Keyword Search Strategies and Guides
Most online library indexes and abstracts and full-text article databases offer basic and advanced “keyword” searching of virtually every subject. In this case, combine keyword terms that best define your thesis question or topic using the Boolean search method (employing “and” or “or”) to find resources most suitable for your research paper.
If your research paper topic is “the critical shortage of registered nurses in the United States,” for example, enter “shortage” and “nurses” with “and” on the same line to locate sources directly compatible with the primary focus of your paper. To find research on more specific aspects of your topic, from your list of keywords that you developed alternate with one new keyword at a time (for example, “shortage and nurses and challenges,” “shortage and nurses and demand,” “shortage and nurses and recruitment,” “shortage and nurses and remedies,” “shortage and nurses and retention,” etc.).
For additional help with keyword searching, navigation or user guides for online indexes and databases by many leading providers—including Cambridge Scientific Abstracts, EBSCO, H.W. Wilson, OCLC, Ovid Technologies, ProQuest, and Thomson Gale—are posted with direct links on library Web sites to guides providing specific instruction to using whichever database you want to search. They provide additional guidance on how to customize and maximize your searching, including advanced searching techniques and grouping of words and phrases using the Boolean search method—of your topic, of bibliographic records, and of full-text articles, and other documents related to your research paper.
Selected Source and Subject Guides
As part of your preliminary research to find appropriate resources for your research paper topic, information source and research guides are available at most public and academic libraries and are keyword searchable through your library’s online catalog (to search and locate guides, enter your “subject” followed by these keywords one search at a time: “information sources,” “reference sources,” and “research guide”). Printed guides available for this subject area include
Guide to Libraries and Information Sources in Medicine and Health Care, 3rd ed., edited by Peter Dale, 209 pages (London: British Library, 2002)
Information Sources for Nursing: A Guide, edited by Judith S. Shockley, 148 pages (New York: National League for Nursing, 1988)
Introduction to Reference Sources in the Health Sciences, 5th ed., edited by Jeffrey T. Huber, Jo Anne Boorkman, and Jean Blackwell (New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, 2008)
In addition to these sources of research, most college and university libraries offer online subject guides arranged by subject on the library’s Web page; others also list searchable course-related “LibGuides” by subject. Each guide lists more recommended published and Web sources—including books and references, journal, newspaper and magazines indexes, full-text article databases, Web sites, and even research tutorials—you can access to expand your research on more specific issues and relevant to the subject of your research paper.
Selected Books and References
Mosby’s Medical, Nursing and Allied Health Dictionary, 8th ed., 2,137 pages (St. Louis, Mo.: Mosby, 2009)
This fully revised, eighth-edition nursing dictionary provides detailed definitions with more than 2,300 color illustrations on more than 6,000 key medical terms. Alphabetically arranged entries offer practical reference information on such things as the human anatomy, major diseases, disorders, procedures, and drug therapies.
The A to Z of Infectious Diseases: A Concise Encyclopedia, 3rd ed., by Carol Turkington and Bonnie Lee Ashby, M.D., 412 pages (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007)
This easy-to-understand encyclopedia is written in plain language for laypeople and nonhealth care professionals. It covers a wide range of infectious diseases and their causes. More than 600 entries discuss common diseases in detail, including their symptoms, prevention, drug therapies, and medical treatment. Written by medical writer Carol Turkington and physician Bonnie Lee Ashby, this fully revised and updated third edition covers childhood diseases, food-borne diseases, and many others. Six appendixes offer more information regarding drug treatments and known side effects, guidelines for home remedies for disinfection, a directory of health organizations complete with names and addresses, medical hot lines, health publications, and infectious disease Web sites. An extensive bibliography rounds out this title.
Encyclopedia of Bioethics, 3rd ed., edited by Stephen G. Post, 5 vols., 3,000 pages (New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2003)
This five-volume revised edition provides informative articles about all aspects of health care ethics of modern medicine, science, and technology. Some 460 in-depth articles cover a wide range of complex issues facing health care professionals today, including abortion, animal research, death and dying, fertility and reproduction, genetics, organ donation and transplant, public health, mental health, and much more.
Encyclopedia of Nursing Research, Second Edition, edited by Joyce J. Fitzpatrick and Meredith Wallace, 832 pages (New York: Springer Publishing Co., 2005)
Written by 200 contributing experts, this revised encyclopedia describes and explains key terms and concepts in nursing research. Entries cover a wide range of topics, from nursing care, nursing education, and nursing services to cultural, historical, and philosophical issues, key nursing organizations, and publications extensively cross-referenced to help readers find information.
The Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, 3rd ed., edited by Jacqueline L. Longe, 5 vols., 3,956 pages (Detroit, Mich.: Gale Group, 2006)
An encyclopedia suitable for doctors, nurses, health care workers, and nonprofessionals, offering in-depth coverage and easy-to-read articles on 1,750 medical topics such as diseases, disorders, tests, and treatments on major and minor medical issues. This revised third edition features more than 200 new entries and 300 fully updated articles. Articles range from one to 10 pages in length. Besides a short glossary of terms, each article includes a list of additional references, including articles, books, tapes, Web sites, and associations with contact information.
Guides and Manuals
Magill’s Medical Guide, 4th ed., edited by Anne Chang, M.D., et al., 5 vols., 3,206 pages (Pasadena, Calif.: Salem Press, 2004)
This five-volume, revised fourth edition provides 1,017 articles on a wide range of medical topics, including 58 new topics and 37 newly commissioned and updated essays. Essays ranging from 500 to 3,000 words address a myriad of important and emerging health subjects, including AIDS, anthrax, botox, cloning, fetal surgery, and gene therapy.
The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy, 18th ed., edited by Mark H. Beers and Robert S. Porter, 2,992 pages (N.J.: Merck Publishing Group, 2007)
Classic print reference for physicians, residents, and nurses, also available in electronic form, offering information about the diagnosis and treatment of common human diseases, disorders, and injuries, including symptoms and recommended treatments, arranged by etiology, organ system, or specialty.
Selected Full-Text Article Databases
Academic Search Premier (Ipswich, Mass.: EBSCO Publishing, EBSCOHost, indexing/abstracting: 1984– , full text: 1990– )
General, multidisciplinary database and good source of information with full-text articles from scholarly journals—more than 3,000 publications in all academic disciplines—from 1990 to the present.
Clinical Pharmacology (Tampa, Fla.: Gold Standard Inc./EBSCO Publishing EBSCOHost)
Offers current and concise clinical drug monographs for all U.S. prescription drugs, hard-to-find herbal and nutritional supplements, new and investigational drugs, and over-the-counter products.
Expanded Academic ASAP (Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale InfoTrac, 1980– )
Indexes more than 8.5 million articles, with access to some full-text articles, in many academic disciplines, including nursing. Indexes up to 3,000 scholarly journals, as well as magazines, and newspapers.
Health and Wellness Resource Center (Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale InfoTrac, 1980– )
Offers indexing and full-text articles on health and medicine, including encyclopedias, directories, medical dictionaries, periodicals, newspapers, pamphlets, and Web links. Similar in scope to Health Reference Center—Academic.
Health Periodicals Database (Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale Group, 1976– )
Containing a wealth of information on health, fitness, nutrition, and specialized medical topics, this electronic database, delivered on the Web via Thomson DIALOG, features citations and abstracts and full-text articles from 130 consumer health periodicals and 110 core health publications, as well as professional medical journals and pamphlets from medical associations. Covers the gamut of health science topics, including AIDS, biotechnology, cardiovascular disease, dieting, drug abuse, environment and public health, gerontology, health care costs, medical ethics, mental health, occupational health and safety, sports medicine, and toxicology.
Health Reference Center—Academic (Farmington Hills, Mich.: Thomson Gale InfoTrac, 1980– )
Provides timely and reliable indexing of medical, nursing, and current health issues published in more than 200 medical journals and consumer health magazines. Contains full-text articles from 150 periodicals and six medical reference books, including the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons Complete Home Medical Guide and the Consumer Health Information Source Book. Also indexes 1,500 general interest titles and more than 500 pamphlets. Coverage of magazines and newspapers is nearly identical to that of Health and Wellness Resource Center.
Health Source: Consumer Edition (Ipswich, Mass.: EBSCO Publishing, EBSCOHost, indexing/abstracting: 1984– , full text: 1990– )
Good source of information on general health topics and health sciences that indexes and abstracts some 180 professional health care publications, with full-text for 300 journals and more than 1,000 health pamphlets.
Health Source: Nursing/Academic Edition (Ipswich, Mass.: EBSCO Publishing, EBSCOHost, indexing: 1960s– , full text: 1975– )
Abstracts and indexes 822 journals and 542 full-text articles in nursing and allied health fields, including 441 peer-reviewed journals on many medical disciplines.
LexisNexis Academic Universe (Dayton, Ohio: LexisNexis, 1970– )
Up-to-date electronic database that indexes more than 5,600 sources on a myriad of subjects, including news and current events, and provides access to full-text articles on many medical topics and related fields.
Nursing & Allied Health Collection (Ipswich, Mass.: EBSCO Publishing, EBSCOHost, 1985– )
Updated monthly, this online database provides access to full-text articles from almost 100 nursing, biomedicine, consumer health, health sciences, and allied health journals covering all disciplines with cover-to-cover PDF files available for most journals.
ProQuest Nursing Journals (Ann Arbor, Mich.: ProQuest, 1986– )
This searchable database indexes 287 nursing and allied health periodicals, offering full text and images from such journals as Nursing, Nursing Management, Nursing Economics, Nursing Forum, RN, Journal of Nursing Education, Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Researcher, and Nursing Diagnosis. Other publications covered include Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, American Journal of Sports Medicine, Occupational Therapy International, Physical Therapy, and Patient Care Management. Some journals are similar to those indexed in CINAHL.
ProQuest Research Library (Ann Arbor, Mich.: ProQuest/UMI, indexing: 1971– , full text: 1986– )
Complete access to citations and abstracts with full text to more than 2,500 academic journals and popular magazines, many in medicine and health sciences.
PubMed (Bethesda, Md.: U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1960s– )
A service of the National Library of Medicine, PubMed provides access to more than 11 million MEDLINE citations and additional life science journals. PubMed includes links to many sites providing full text articles and other related resources.
ScienceDirect (Burlington, Mass.: Elsevier, Inc., backfiles: 1823– , full text: 1995– )
Multidisciplinary collection, emphasizing medicine, science, and technology, that provides access to more than 2,500 peer-reviewed journals, 735 of them in full-text format, from 1995 to the present, plus more than 10,000 books and references. Subjects include biochemistry, biological sciences, chemistry, clinical medicine, microbiology and immunology, neurosciences, pharmacology and toxicology, physics, and social sciences.
SPORTDiscus (Ottawa, Canada: Sport Information Resource Centre, 1949– ) Leading sport, fitness, and sports medicine bibliographic CD-ROM and online database offering more than 700,000 citations and abstracts to serial and monographic literature, with links to full-text articles, covering all aspects, including recreation, exercise physiology, sports medicine, coaching, physical fitness, the psychology, history, and sociology of sport, training, and conditioning.
Springerlink (New York: Springer, 1996– )
Provides online access to the complete contents of more than 1,200 peer-reviewed journals, covering a wide array of subjects, including medicine, science, and technology; also available as a book series by Springer.
Wiley Interscience Journals (Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, 1997– )
Contains abstracts, tables of contents, and more than 3 million full-text articles from more than 1,450 journals published by Wiley Interscience and Blackwell Publishing, including 360 current titles on such subjects as chemistry, life sciences, medicine, and social sciences.
AJN: American Journal of Nursing (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Co., 1900– , monthly)
The oldest nursing journal in the world, this peer-reviewed monthly journal provides in-depth coverage of the nursing profession and issues related to the education and practice of nursing. Each issues contains clinical and evidence-based news, analysis, and commentary and research reports discussing practical applications in acute care, critical care, long-term care, primary care, and rehabilitation.
Critical Care Nursing Quarterly (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1973– , quarterly)
This topical quarterly journal focuses on current clinical procedures in critical care. Coverage includes the latest developments, strategies, and techniques in intensive and critical care, patient management, and pharmacological and technological advances. Also available in electronic form, full-text articles of past issues of Critical Care Nursing Quarterly are available through InfoTrac’s Health and Wellness Reference Center (1996– ) and EBSCOHost’s Health Source: Nursing/Academic Edition (1999– ), among others.
Journal of Advanced Nursing (Oxford and Boston: Blackwell Scientific Publications, 1994– , monthly)
Published monthly, this scholarly journal is dedicated to exploring the critical global challenges and nature of nursing in all fields of health care, including all aspects of nursing care, nursing education, management, and research. Articles in each issue mostly reflect “the diversity, quality and internationalism of nursing” including new advancements and developments, and scientific and philosophical theories. Past editions and articles are indexed and abstracted in such leading references as Applied Social Science Index and Abstracts, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, Current Contents, MEDLINE, and Social Sciences Citation Index.
Selected Web Sites
ANA: The American Nurses Association (https://www.nursingworld.org/)
Representing more than 2.9 million registered nurses nationwide, the American Nurses Association’s Web site offers useful information and resources of interest to professional nurses and nursing students, including news, information, and position papers on nursing, nursing ethics, and nursing careers.
Free Medical Journals List (http://www.freemedicaljournals.com/)
Offers free access to a wide assortment of medical journals on the Web, sorted alphabetically by name or by specialty.
Medscape (WebMD, 1994– ) (http://www.medscape.com/)
An online journal of health news for health care professionals featuring full-text articles covering such areas as cardiology, family medicine, pulmonary medicine, and radiology, access to the online information database MEDLINE, and a medical dictionary.
Nursing Center—Journal Articles (http://www.nursingcenter.com/lnc/journalindex)
Contains articles from nearly 40 trusted nursing journals, including AJN and Nursing 2004, available in both HTML and .PDF formats.
Nursing Journals (http://libguides.asu.edu/cat.php?cid=1492)
Lists a variety of journals with direct links, related to the profession of nursing.
Virtual Nursing Center (Martindale’s Health Science Guide) (http://www.martindalecenter.com/Nursing.html)
Virtual reference center featuring case studies, continuing education materials, medical dictionaries and glossaries, online nursing journals, and more.
Careers in Nursing
Health Science Career Cluster (http://career.iresearchnet.com/career-clusters/health-science-career-cluster/)
The health science field has become one of the largest of the career clusters. Approximately 14 million people were employed in some aspect of the U.S. health care system in 2006, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Health care workers are employed as physicians, nurses, nursing aides, technicians, technologists, therapists, and in a host of other occupations.
Human Services Career Cluster (http://career.iresearchnet.com/career-clusters/human-services-career-cluster/)
The human services career cluster contains jobs that deal with families and human needs. Human services workers help people manage the many mental, emotional, and practical demands of everyday life, such as finding a home, securing child care, deciding on a career, or arranging funeral services for loved ones. They also help people deal with the unexpected, such as terminal illness, natural disasters, or addiction and recovery. Work in this area can also involve physical improvements and needs, such as helping someone achieve weight loss or providing massage therapy for health and relaxation. Regardless of the specific area in which they work, all human services share a genuine interest in helping people.
Health Care Career Field (http://career.iresearchnet.com/career-fields/health-care-career-field/)
The origins of medicine began with prehistoric people who believed that diseases were derived from supernatural powers. To destroy the evil spirits, they performed trephining, which involved cutting a hole in the victim’s skull to release the spirit. Skulls have been found in which the trephine hole has healed, demonstrating that people did survive the ritual, although it may be assumed that trephining did little to help the afflicted person. The first doctors, known as medicine men, also used herbal concoctions, ritual dances, and incantations to heal their patients.