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Nursing - Information Literacy

Background Question (Example Topic: Therapeutic Touch)

In Module 1 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 

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 the Databases:

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

Using an article database like CINAHL, when you first enter the keyword search therapeutic touch it  retrieves more than 1,000 articles!




Narrowing the Results:

One way to begin to narrowing results and increase relevance is to take note of the CINAHL 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). 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 Article Type:

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

In CINAHL, 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 limiters appear in the "Refine Your Results" (left menu) of the CINAHLscreen.

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

CINAHL will allow you to also limit your Publication Type, this time the result of limiting to Publication type: Research.  In CINAHL, a Research article is defined as: "an original (includes SECONDARY ANALYSIS), complete research study containing data collection, methodology, discussion of results, etc."

You have learned how to apply LIMITS to answer a background question such as the use of therapeutic touch in the elderly by locating a Review article. Secondly, you have learned how to raisee 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).