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Nursing Resources: A Self-Paced Tutorial and Refresher: 2.2 Develop the Question: Background Questions

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

A Background Question: Therapeutic Touch in CINAHL, Limiting to Reviews

In Module 1 of the tutorial you learned that often a literature search seeks to answer a "background question" (looking for overview or summary information about a disease, a problem, or a population). Secondary sources such as:

  • encyclopedias, textbooks, drug directories
  • print and online summaries
  • "point of care" summaries  (such as Nursing Reference Center, see box on the right >>>>>>)

may help with this type of question. Additionally, an up-to-date research article or a "review" article on a broad topic may also summarize the state of the art for a background question.


An overview or background question for an article search might be:

"Is there recent evidence to support the effective use of therapeutic touch in the elderly?"


Searching for Content:

First we address the content of the question:  therapeutic touch.

Using an article database like CINAHLPlus, the key word search therapeutic touch retrieves more than 8400 articles!

Narrowing the Content:

One way to begin to restrict results and increase relevance is to notice the CINAHLPlus Subject headings. They may be seen as descriptors for the most relevant results as you browse.  Or you may search the online thesaurus "CINAHL Headings" at the top of the search page. The record below depicts revised search results, based on a search for the term Therapeutic Touch as a Subject Heading (not as a key word). The results are now shown with 404 results. When an index term is applied to an article citation, it indicates the term is a topic of the article, rather than just a key word(s) that might appear in the abstract.


Limiting for Article Type:

Once we have located the subject terms for content, we can use LIMITS to find a Review article, secondary source material. 

In CINAHLPlus, a Review article is defined as: "a review of the published literature that can cover a wide range of subject matter of various levels of completeness or comprehensiveness. The presence of research findings or case reports does not preclude designation as a review."


Popular Limits appear in the Refine Your Results (left menu) of the CINAHLPlus screen. For more limits, choose Show More in left menu, then select an option for Publication Type:



Below is a sample search result based on the limit to Publication Type: Review


Below is an example of another CINAHLPlus search limiting by Publication Type, this time the result of limiting to Publication type: Research


In CINAHLPlus, a Research article is defined as: "an original (includes SECONDARY ANALYSIS), complete research study containing data collection, methodology, discussion of results, etc." 

You have seen how to apply LIMITS to answer a background question such as the use of therapeutic touch in the elderly by locating a Review article.

And you have seen a way to raise the level of evidence in a search by limiting to a Research article.

To further limit to an age group, you could use the limit to restrict to Age Group: Aged (65 and over).

The next module will show how to apply LIMITS and raise the level of evidence for a foreground question.

Click on the Forward button to go to Module 2.3

Nursing Reference Center (NRC)

Nursing Reference Center Plus (NRC)   (NYU only)

NRC Plus provides a user-friendly point-of-care resource intended for staff nurses, nurse administrators, nursing students, nurse faculty, and hospital librarians. NRC aggregates the most recent clinical evidence and knowledge on conditions and diseases via a nursing-specific graphical interface. NRC is accessible from a patient’s bedside, nursing station, kiosk, office, or home. Clinical care data included in NRC consists of:

  • CINAHL Nursing Guide –Over 3,500 evidence-based lessons on procedures, diseases and conditions, legal cases and drugs.
    • 2,700+ Care Sheets and Lessons
    • 700+ Legal Cases
    • 300+ Research Instruments
    • 500+ Continuing Education Full Text Documents
  • Patient Education – Over 4,000 Health Library documents available in both English and Spanish.
  • Link here from your desktop  to register
    • SCROLL TO "NRC Plus Mobile App Access"
    • Note that in order for the authentication key to work you must register with an email address synced to your iPhone/iPad/iPod.
    • Next, from your mobile device, download the NRC app, then register using the authentication key sent to your email. You have 24 hours to access the key from your device to authenticate the app. If the key is not used within 24 hours, it expires and will need a new key.