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Nursing: Scholarly Inquiry: Articles on Your Topic

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The resources in this section will help you find articles on your topic for a literature review.

Search Basics

Recommended Databases for Nursing

Search Basics

You can try using Google Scholar or the Library Search on the library homepage to get you started, but the most effective way to find relevant articles on your topic is to search in the health sciences databases.  

Different databases have different kinds of information, so where you should search depends on what you want to find.

For Nursing scholarly articles, your best bets are the databases CINAHL, MEDLINE, and Academic Search Complete.  

Select a database from the drop-down menu below.  Check out the list of Recommended Databases for Nursing for detailed descriptions.

Tip: If you're searching one database that looks like this (like CINAHL or MEDLINE), click on the Choose Databases link to search other databases at the same time.

Screenshot of choose databases link

One of the most important steps to finding relevant articles on your topic is carefully choosing your search terms.  The databases only search for the exact words that you enter, so you have to be very strategic.

For example, let's say we're interested in learning about healthcare providers' attitudes toward screening for domestic violence.

To start, think about the key concepts that are related to your topic.  Put each concept on a different line when you search the databases.  For example:

Next, brainstorm as many synonyms as you can for each concept.  Add words that mean the same thing next to one another and type the word "or" in between.  For example:

If you get very few or no results, it doesn't mean there are no articles on your topic.  You just have to keep trying different combinations of search terms until you find the right one!  Try one of the following strategies:

Add more synonyms

Don't forget that the databases will only search for the exact words you enter.  If you only search for "domestic violence," you'll miss out on articles that use the term "intimate partner violence" instead.  Adding more synonyms using "or" in between will often give you a lot more results.

Remove a concept

If you have three or more concepts on different lines, try taking one out and see what happens.  This will give you a broader search, and you can then narrow down the results to get as close to your topic as possible.  

Do some more background reading

Read through your textbook, websites, and articles you've already found on your topic.  As you read, look out for words, phrases, and concepts that pop up in a lot of different places.  This can give you an idea of new words to search.

Ask for help

If you're still having trouble, ask the library for help.  We can help you think of new search terms and strategies to get more articles about your topic.

If you get more results than you can reasonably look at, you'll want to narrow your results to get even closer to your topic.  Try one of the following strategies:

Add a concept

Is there another concept that you'd really like to see addressed in your articles?  Try adding it in on another line (click the + icon next to the third search box to add more).

Revisit your synonyms

If you have lots of synonyms in your search terms, take another look at them.

  • Are all of the words you entered really relevant for your topic?  If not, remove the ones that are less relevant.
  • Do you have "or" between two completely different concepts?  For example, searching for "domestic violence or attitudes" will give you all of the articles that mention either domestic violence or attitudes.  Instead, put the two concepts on different lines.  This will tell the databases to search for articles that mention domestic violence and attitudes, which is what you want.

Use the filters

Just like in an Amazon search, databases give you filters (also called limiters) to help you narrow down your results.  Try adjusting the publication date range, the peer review status, and any other characteristics that are relevant for your topic.

If you want to remove a filter, scroll up to the Current Search box.  Click the x icon next to a filter to take it away.

Ask for help

If you're still having trouble, ask the library for help.  We can help you think of new search terms and strategies to get more articles about your topic.

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Recommended Databases for Nursing