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finding NURSING INFORMATION: start with a good topic

types of nursing information    start with a good topic    decide what kind of information you need    search for journal articles    search for books    search for statistics    evaluating search results    getting full-text    journal title abbreviations    citing sources    getting citations automatically via e-mail   

The first key to success in finding nursing information is developing a good research topic. The best way to think of a research topic is as a specific question. Ask yourself, "What is the one thing you would most like to learn about an issue?" This should help you to avoid very broad topics, which are common folly of those new to research.

Overly broad research topics Good research topics
hospital nursing What can hospitals do to increase nurse retention?
What infection control practices are most important for hospital nurses to use?
epilepsy What is the lived experience of patients with epilepsy?
How do children with epilepsy perceive their quality of life?
healthcare delivery systems What is the history of the Visiting Nurses Association?
What kinds of preventive health programs are offered by churches in the U.S.?

It is better to start with a question that is too specific than too general. If you start with a narrow topic and are unable to find enough articles/books written about your topic, you can easily broaden your search. On the other hand, if you pick a broad topic, you are likely to get a large set of divergent results. Finding an adequate number of related articles on which you can base your paper will take more time, sifting, and patience.

Example: A broad search on hospital nursing in the database CINAHL returns these 10 articles first.

1. Effect of the hospital nursing environment on patient mortality: a systematic review.
2. Letter to the editor. Predictors of patient satisfaction with inpatient hospital nursing care.
3. Regulating hospital use: length of stay, beds and whiteboards.
4. The impact of hospital nursing characteristics on 30-day mortality.
5. Registered nurses perception of work satisfaction at a tertiary care university hospital.
6. Predictors of professional nursing practice behaviors in hospital settings.
7. Organizational dimensions of hospital nursing practice: longitudinal results.
8. Financing palliative care.
9. European nursing history: nursing education in the modern Greek state.
10. Work-related disability in Canadian nurses.

These articles are too varied to use for one paper. As you can see, however, two of the citations (1 and 4) relate to the hospital nursing environment and patient mortality. A search run specifically on this topic would give you a set of results that you could base your paper on.

Example: A narrow search on hospital mortality and the nurse's work environment in CINAHL returns these 10 articles first.

1. Effect of the hospital nursing environment on patient mortality: a systematic review.
2. Safe and adequate nurse staffing.
3. The impact of hospital nursing characteristics on 30-day mortality.
4. A theoretical model of the determinants of mortality.
5. Disruptive behavior & clinical outcomes: perceptions of nurses & physicians.
6. Registered nurse staffing and patient and nurse outcomes in hospitals: a commentary.
7. Evidence of nurse working conditions: a global perspective.
8. JAMA article echoes standing concerns of Maine nurses: study links hospital staffing and patient mortality, nurse burnout and job dissatisfaction.
9. Modeling the determinants of mortality for hospitalized patients.
10. The evaluation of hospital restructuring efforts: satisfaction, quality, and costs.

stethescope   If you are having trouble narrowing your topic...

If you are having difficulty narrowing your search topic, you may want to ask yourself a set of questions:

  • What is my subject? Is it a person or a thing: disease, method of care, etc.?
  • What do you know about it? What don't you know?
  • What level of depth do you need to have: basic overview, lenghty explanation, research articles, statistics, etc.?
  • What aspects of your topic interest you: historical, sociological, psychological, epidemiological, etiological, etc.?
  • What time period do you want to cover: 1960's, past 5 years, etc.?
  • Do you want to focus on a type of location: inner city, rural, Hartford, etc.?
  • Do you want to focus on an age group: children, adults, etc.?
  • Do you want to focus on a specific ethnicity: Caucasians, Chinese Americans, African Americans, etc.
  • Do you want to limit your results to English language materials?

stethescope   If you are having trouble deciding on a topic...

Picking a good topic is the keystone of writing a good paper. If you are unfamiliar with a field, developing a good research topic can be very challenging. How can you ask a question about a topic you don't know about? If you find yourself in this situation, remember that there are places you can go to familiarize yourself with a field or topic:

  • Try your class textbook.
  • Look at the current issue of a nursing or health journal.
  • Browse through a nursing or medical encyclopedia.
  • Peruse a book on the topic.
  • Scan a website on the topic.
  • Or, ask your professor for guidance.

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for help finding nursing information, contact: Valori.Banfi@uconn.edu
to comment on this tutorial, contact: Jill.Livingston@uconn.edu