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finding NURSING INFORMATION: types of nursing information

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   

There are many different types of information published in nursing/medicine. Knowing what types of information exists and what for what intent is a critical step in the research process. If you are able to decide ahead of time what type(s) of publication contains information suited to your purpose, it will make the search process easier and faster for you.

Part I Life Cycle of Nursing, Medical and Scientific Information
Part II Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources
Part III Research Articles
Part IV Scholarly vs Popular Sources
Part V Peer Review

stethescope   Life Cycle of Nursing, Medical and Scientific Information

First a scholar develops an idea.

Based on the idea, the scholar develops a research hypothesis. Before testing the hypothesis, they will need to learn what prior research has been done on the topic. This means that they have to find all information (i.e. journal articles, books, conference proceedings, dissertations) previously published on the topic. They search for the information by using library resources!

After discovering what previous research has already been done, the scholar conducts an experiment to test their hypothesis. There are many types of research and the scholar has to choose the method most appropriate for their needs.

After the research experiment, scholars often share their findings with colleagues and other experts in the field. This type of communication, which does not appear in formal print, is called the Invisible College.

Once their finding have been studied and discussed, the researcher makes them publicly available in writing. In the medical field, the primary outlet for publication of research results is scholarly journals.

After initial publication, the information presented in the original publication may be reused in part or whole. It is possible that the publication may be edited, synopsized, abridged, excerpted, or even reprinted in its entirety. It may reemerge as a newspaper or journal article, a book, a chapter of a book, a speech, or in various other forms. It is important to remember that there is no definite end to the life cycle of scientific information; rather a publication may metamorphose ad infinitum.

stethescope    Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources

The initial release of information in a formal setting is considered primary literature. Primary sources present information which has not been previously published in any form in any other source. In scientific literature, journals, conference proceedings, and technical reports are usually considered primary literature. Also, data upon which these publications are based can be considered a primary source.

Secondary sources describe, comment on, interpret, analyze, summarize, or evaluate primary sources. They rely on evidence previously published in primary sources and are written after the time period when the experiment was conducted or the event noted in the primary source occured. For instance, in order for you to write a term paper, you generally synopsize evidence that has been published in articles or books. You do not conduct the field or laboratory research upon which your term paper is based. Publication types that are usually secondary sources in the sciences include books, review articles, newspaper articles, and indexing/abstracting services (i.e. CINAHL, MEDLINE).

Tertiary sources are those which provide either a) a list of primary and secondary sources (i.e. bibliography) or b) an aggregation of primary and secondary sources (i.e. anthology of previously published articles). Tertiary sources gather a collection of previously published works, edit, and reprint their content in one body. Other common tertiary sources, in addition to those already mentioned, include encyclopedias, handbooks, manuals, directories, and chronologies.

The classification of sources as primary, secondary, or tertiary varies by discipline and must be done on a case-by-case basis. Use the clues below to help determine the nature of a document:

Your document is most likely primary if:

  1. It is the first formal publication of firsthand observation or investigation.
  2. It presents the results of new research.
  3. The information was published at the time of the event.
  4. The information is raw data.
Your document is most likely secondary if:
  1. The information presented is on a topic that has already been written about.
  2. The information a recasting of an earlier released document.
  3. The information is about an event that took place in an earlier time.
  4. The information does not describe an experiment, its methodology, the data, or results.

thermometer   Test your assessment ability by trying to identify some sources on your own.

If you would like to read more information on this topic, please refer to "Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary Sources in the Health Sciences" by the University of Minnesota Bio-Medical Library. If you are having trouble identifying the classification of a document, ask a librarian or your professor for help.

stethescope   Research Articles

As you may already understand, research articles present the results of original research (experiments). They can present the results of either qualitative or quantitative research and use a variety of methods.

Many factors determine what type of study a researcher chooses to use. These often include: reliability of results, study participant availability, bias, cost, ethics, risk factors, and time. This quick guide will help you to identify and distinguish between the common types of studies. Despite their differences, identification of research articles is fairly easy because they are often written in a standard format.

Format of Scientific Research Articles:

  1. Title
  2. Authors
  3. Abstract: summary of article
  4. Introduction: background and nature of the problem being investigated
  5. Materials and Methods: how the research was conducted
  6. Results: summary data collected with contextual information
  7. Tables and Graphs
  8. Discussion: sometimes this section is combined with Results, includes a comprehensive narrative of the research from start to finish.
  9. Acknowledgements
  10. References: sources used

See an example of a research article.

For more information, see "Writing a Scientific Research Article" by Columbia University's Biology Department.

stethescope   Scholarly vs Popular Sources

When doing academic research, you will need to distinguish between scholarly (academic) and popular (lay person, entertainment) sources. Both types of research are available in college libraries; however, it is usually preferable to use scholarly sources for assignments and research. The chart below will help you to distinguish between the two types of sources.

Scholarly Popular
Audience scholars, researchers, and students general public
Authors experts in the field (faculty members, researchers) identified by name, academic degrees, and institutional affiliation journalists or freelance writers who may not identify themselves or their credentials
Readability complicated language about a very specific topic easily understood language about a general topic
Images tables, graphs and photographs used when necessary to support the text; seldom use of advertising for academic products frequent use of color photographs that do not illustrate research results; advertisements for consumer products
References extensive use of notes and works cited rare use of notes or works cited
Editors independent group of scholars (peer review) employee(s) of the publisher
Might be boring, hard to read easy, fun and interesting to read
Examples AORN journal   WJNR   MCN Prevention magazine   Muscle & Fitness magazine   Living nutrition magazine

To look up whether a specific journal(s) is scholarly search Ulrich's Periodicals Directory The Document Type will specify either:
"Academic/Scholarly" for Scholarly Journals
"Magazine; Trade" for Popular Journals

thermometer   Use Ulrich's to find out whether these two journals are scholarly or popular.
1. American Journal of Nursing
2. Journal of Nursing Research

stethescope   Peer Review

Peer review is a type of critical examination in which an author's work is scrutinized by one or more reviewers who are experts in the field. The idea behind peer review is that an individual editor or group of editors cannot have a deep understanding of every facet of research within their field. Therefore, a standing group of editors cannot appropriately evaluate the quality of every author's submission. Even within an individual field, such as nursing, the research is very broad and complex and beyond the scope of a single expert.

In order for an author's submission to be appropriately evalutated, the predominant opinion in publishing is that it is necessary to vet the manuscript with a group of subject experts. These subject experts are a unpaid, anonymous, and submit confidential comments to journal or book editors. They do not have direct contact with authors. Peer reviewers are also known as referees, and thus peer reviewed publications are sometimes referred to as refereed publications.

Types of recommendations referees make to editors may include:

  • accept author's work as is
  • accept author's work, but only after specified improvements are made
  • reject author's work
  • reject author's work, but with the possibility left open that the author may extensively revise and resubmitted their manuscript

Some class assignments require references to be peer reviewed. In CINAHL, one of the available limits will allow you to limit your results to peer review publications. Also, Ulrich's Periodicals Directory will tell you if a journal is peer reviewed (refereed).

thermometer   Use Ulrich's to find out whether these three journals are peer reviewed.
1. Archives of Internal Medicine
2. Nursing Times
3. Science

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