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Introduction to Nursing Research

This guide has been developed to introduce Nursing students to Humber Libraries' resources and services, and to help with research.

Scholarly Journals

Academic or 'scholarly' journal articles are those that have been researched and authored by professional researchers or experts in a particular field.

Unlike the entertainment or news-driven information commonly found in magazines and newspapers, scholarly journals have been written with an audience of researchers and academics in mind. For research, particularly within the field of health sciences, scholarly journal articles are the leading source of information.




Peer reviewed articles have undergone a process of evaluation by subject specific experts (peers) to ensure that information is accurate, high quality, and academically sound. Peer reviewed articles contain original research to be shared with researchers and other professionals.

Not all articles are peer reviewed. To find peer reviewed articles:

  • Look for a "Peer Review" or "refereed" search limiter when conducting your search (see example below)
  • Check the website of the publication your article was published in. Most journals will state whether the articles within are peer reviewed.

Differences Between Magazine and Journal Articles

Magazine and Journal Articles are often confused. When your instructor asks you to locate a journal article, do you know what you're looking for? The table below outlines some key differences between both sources of information.
  Magazine Article Journal Article
Topic General or current interest Detailed examination of professional interest

Non-professional journalist or freelancewriter

Professional, topical expert
(qualifications required)
Purpose To inform or entertain To keep scholars current with new research
Audience General public    Professional or special interest groups
Example Maclean's Nursing Science Quarterly

Refine Your Search

AND finds records with all of your terms/keywords and narrows your search.

OR finds records with any of the terms and broadens your search.

Truncation finds records with a term's various endings (ie. nurs* = nurse, nurses, nursing, nursed, etc.).

Fixing Search Problems

Zero Results

  • first check your spelling :). And don't forget that British (paediatric) and American (maternal labor) spelling might effect your search results
  • try using a term that might be more inclusive. For example, if your search yields no results for achondroplasia, then try dwarfism, or even try musculoskeletal then AND this term with disorder* OR condition.

Too Few Results

  • use truncation and OR (ie. baby OR babies OR infant* OR toddler*), (heart OR cardiac) to expand the results
  • find a CINAHL Heading subject and click the Explode box to find all articles indexed with terms relating to your heading
  • search for articles listed in the bibliographies at the end of relevant articles that you do find
  • perform an Author field search for the names of relevant authors who are listed in these bibliographies
  • click on Find Similar Results (Ebsco databases) or Find more documents like this (Proquest) from the full record page of a relevant article
  • try Cited References (CINAHL) or References (Proquest) on the search results page for more references
  • try the Social Sciences grouping of databases if your topic is geared to social, psychological, or family issues

Non-relevant Results

  • use proper subject headings. For example, CINAHL uses Psychiatric Nursing rather than Mental Health Nursing
  • find a relevant article in your list of results, and use its proper subject headings to redo your search
  • try the Social Sciences grouping of databases

Too Many Results

  • if your search yields too many results (ie. diabetes), use AND to make it more specific (ie. diabetes AND therapy AND adult)
  • search for your terms in the Title field (from the pull-down menu on the search box)
  • use database-specific proper Subject headings
  • in CINAHL try specific Subheadings (from your blue hot-linked subject term appearing after a CINAHL Headings search)
  • find a CINAHL Heading subject and click the Major Concept box to see articles that emphasize your subject
  • use more limiters (ie. date range, publication type, special interest groupings, document type, journal title etc.