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Nursing Resources: A Self-Paced Tutorial and Refresher: 1.1 The Literature Search

An online instructional tool to orient users to the NYU virtual environment: books, databases, articles, more.

1.1 Where is the literature?

The literature search!  Whether to answer a clinical question, to gather background information on a topic, to meet a grant deadline or write a research paper, nurses and nursing students need to understand how information is arranged before they can locate, appraise, and apply the knowledge gained.

Information may be found in: books, articles, pre-appraised sources, government documents, dissertations, web sites, unpublished in the "grey" literature, and more!

Know the difference between information

Access Tool

(where to find)

Content/Currency Primary Audience Example


Books, print






Online library catalogs like BobCat

The publication cycle of books means that information is at least  a few years old. Content is used for:

  • Background information
  • Overview of a topic
  • Lengthy treatments of a  specialized subject

 A book:

Nehlig, A. (2004). Coffee, tea, chocolate and the brain. London: CRC Press.

 An E-book:

Chambers, K. P. (2009). Caffeine and Health Research [Ebook Central version]. Retrieved from http://www.Ebook


Popular magazines and periodicals

Specialized databases, e.g.,

  • Proquest Central
  • LexisNexis
Contains the most current information:
  • newspapers
  • magazines
  • newsletters
  • trade journals
  • scholarly journals
  • dissertations
  • more
General public, health consumers,  patients, researchers, educators, students

A newspaper article:

Sarah, M. N. (2015, May 11). Behind perfect nails, ailing salon workers. New York Times. Retrieved from​ 


Scholarly Journals (Peer-Reviewed/Refereed)

Specialized article databases:

Published quarterly or monthly; information/data often at least 6 months old or more.

  • peer-reviewed journals publishing original research studies
  • non-peer-reviewed articles
  • book chapters
  • government, international, & other documents
  • dissertations
  • more (e.g., CE programs,  websites, conference proceedings)
Researchers, educators, students, business leaders

A scholarly journal article:

Eskelinen, MH, Ngandu, T, Tuomilehto, J, et al. (2009). Midlife coffee and tea drinking and the risk of late-life dementia: A population-based CAIDE study. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, 16(1), 85-91. 

Pre-synthesized Evidence Summaries and “Point of Care” tools Health e-books and Syntheses
  • pre-appraised articles
  • pre-appraised topics
  • evidence summaries
  • systematic reviews of primary studies
Clinicians, students, researchers, educators

Appraisal/critique of an article in an abstract journal:

Review: routine NG decompression after abdominal surgery delays return of bowel function and increases pulmonary complications; Brennan MM; Evidence Based Nursing, 2008 Apr; 11 (2): 55.



Specialized article databases, one example is:

Dissertation Abstracts

 Dissertation and theses from around the world, 1861-present. The official digital dissertations archive for the Library of Congress and the database of record for graduate research.  Healthcare professionals, graduate students, educators researchers

A dissertation:

 Squires, Allison Patricia. (2007). A case study of the professionalization of Mexican nursing: 1980 to 2005. Yale University). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses


Free web sites

Internet browsers

  • search engines, e.g.
  • specialized search engines, e.g.
 Anything any individual wants to post: podcasts, blogs, personal communication, propaganda, advertising... All

A web page:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015, May 13). NIOSH Science Blog, Protecting Nail Salon Workers. Retrieved from
"grey literature"
 Grey literature repositories, archives material that is  not published, organized, evaluated, reviewed.  Materials that are not controlled, produced or accessed by commercial publishers. Format may be reports, preprints, conf. abstracts and proceedings, white papers, theses, website info, podcasts, more...

Healthcare professionals, students, educators researchers

A conference presentation:

Fu, M. R. (2017). Lymphedema Symptom Science: Precision Phenotyping, Genotyping, and Intervention. Retrieved from


Click Forward to go to Module 1.2.