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Nursing - Information Literacy

Additional Research Starters

Assistant Director of Library Services

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Cynthia Hunt
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Locating Article Citations in Databases

We have viewed sources for "background" questions. Now, let's consider another type of research question: "Foreground" or more specific queries.

Foreground (PICO T) questions seek evidence to answer a need for clinical information related to a specific Problem, (or Patient, or Population), and an Intervention (or therapy). Clinical questions also require that the evidence be the most recent and highly specific, which is typically found in the scholarly journal literature. 

To find scholarly literature, you will start with an article database. (Initially you might conduct a background search on the narrower topic to assess the existent state of the literature. What kind of results do you get? If results are too numerous the search might need to be narrowed. If results are too few, you will have to think about broadening.)

What is a database? Databases are electronically searchable collections of citations to journal articles, books, dissertations, and other items, published and unpublished). Database citations (records) are organized into searchable fields: author, title, source, date, publication type, etc. The attributes of the database records can assist searchers to locate items by using the fields to specify search terms.

Article citations describe the contents of journal articles.

Databases may be interdisciplinary and cover a large scope of topic areas. For example: Proquest Central.  PubMed (MEDLINE), CINAHLPlus, and PsycINFO are examples of specialized databases for health sciences topics. Databases provide access to citations for:

  • articles in newspapers, magazines, & journals
  • chapters in books
  • essays in collections
  • government, international, & other documents
  • dissertations
  • more (e.g., continuing education programs, selected websites, conference proceedings)