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NUR390W -- Nursing Research & Evidence-Based Practice: Resources: Search for Evidence

Library resources and content to support nursing evidenced-based practice and research.

Having Trouble Finding a Primary Source?

1. Know the definition of a primary source. In nursing, the focus of a primary source is on original research from one research study.  A primary source in nursing is an article written by the researcher who performed the research experiment and includes original research data.  Secondary sources are ones that summarize or compare primary research articles in a particular area, such as a Systematic Review.  A primary research article contains the following:

  • Introduction: Research question which defines the aim of the research
  • Methodology
  • Results
  • Discussion/Conclusions
  • References

Tip: Go to Key Components of a Research Article for a visual example and more information.

2. Search in a database, such as Medline EBSCO or CINAHL Complete.  Use  subject headings or keywords in search boxes for your topic. Select "Advanced Search" and limit to last five years; limit to "Publication Type", then select "Clinical Trial."  A Clinical Trial is one type of common research study.  

3. Evaluate to determine if the article is a primary research article by reading the abstract. If there is not an abstract, read the article.  For help on looking for the full text,  see box below "Finding the Full Text."

  • Review the key components of the research article: research question, methodology,  results, discussion and references.  Make sure the article is not a Systematic Review, because that is a secondary source, which synthesizes many primary research articles on a particular topic.

Tip: Go to the Glossary page for definitions of primary source, secondary source, Systematic Review, and different research studies.

Email if you have questions. Expect a reply within 24 hours Monday-Friday. If on the weekend, contact Ask a Librarian from the library homepage in the upper right corner.

Finding the Full Text

Most articles identified in the databases will have an abstract and then, if available, a link to the full text.

  • Look for a PDF or HTML link in the description of the article.
  • If you do not see a link to the full text, use the Check for Full Text link, it may be available in another database.
  • If it is still unavailable Click on Request It and we will get a digital copy for you. It's free! 

You can request any article that we do not have the full text to regardless of where you got the information from through our Request Materials service!


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The purpose of this Research Guide is to support you in your NUR 390W course learning outcome to utilize electronic resources to efficiently and effectively search, locate and evaluate desired research-based evidence.

Step Two: Search Nursing Databases for Evidence

How to Search in Article Databases

 Utilize different tutorials such as the ones below:

 PubMed Tutorial

PubMed Tutorial

How to Find an Article If You Have the Citation

Search for a specific article with known citation details.

Research Help

Contact Kathee Rose, Librarian, for the College of Health and Human Services

Contact Info


               Kathee Rose's photo           

Step One: Ask Question

Ask Question: Formulate a well-defined answerable question.

The PICO format is an excellent place to start.

Step Two: Search for Evidence

Search credible library databases located in the center of this guide for evidence.

Step Three: Appraise Evidence

Critically appraise evidence for validity, relevance and applicability.

Step Four: Apply Evidence

Combine evidence with clinical expertise and patient values when you apply in clinical setting.

Find a Practicing Guideline

To find a practicing guideline (which can provide possible intervention guidelines), excellent places to start are:

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Citing Sources

Citing Resources