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Nursing Research Guide

A research guide for nursing subjects and courses

System & Source Selection

Search Systems

When choosing where to search for sources, think about how the databases provide sources. Depending on your topic, one type of database might be better than another.

  • Content: some search systems provide access to articles, while others have eBooks or videos
  • Subject: some databases are interdisciplinary, covering multiple subjects, while other databases are subject-specific, focusing on only science or humanities

Library Tip: Interdisciplinary, multi-content databases are great places to start for any type of research! They also help with brainstorming topics.


Having a mix of sources strengthens your papers and projects: peer-reviewed articles, newspaper articles, books, online sources, etc. It's kind of like making sure you have a mix of food groups with your dinner — veggies, a protein, some starch, etc. Don't just have the dessert (aka popular sources).

Library Tip: Double-check your assignment instructions.

  • Do you need a specific number of sources?
  • Are you supposed to have peer-reviewed sources? Books? Videos?
  • Let us know if you need specific types of sources, and we'll be happy to help you find them!

Here are lists of the different types of search systems we have here at the library.

Interdisciplinary/Multi-Content Databases

Content Type

Subject Type

Source Evaluation

Source evaluation is a deeper examination of your sources -- determining a source's type, characteristics, etc. From these evaluations, you'll then decide if a source is a good fit for your research.

Source Types

Source types are more than just book, journal, webpage, etc. You'll also want to determine if the source is a popular or a scholarly source.

  • Popular sources are everyday sources. They're written and produced to be read by anyone and everyone.
  • Scholarly sources are more selective. They're written and produced to be read by scholars, researchers, students, etc.

Here's a table that illustrates the differences between the two types of sources.

  Popular Scholarly
Purpose current events, entertainment, summary research, communicating information
Audience general scholars, researchers, students
Authors journalists, often unnamed researchers, experts, always named
Characteristics shorter length, informal, few citations longer length, formal, more citations, peer-reviewed*

Peer-reviewed articles have been reviewed and accepted for publication by a selected panel of recognized experts in the field of study covered by the journal (also know as the author's peers).

Source Characteristics

Source characteristics help you determine if the information from the source is reliable.

  • Authority: What is the author's background about the topic? What are the author's credentials? Are they an expert?
  • Currency: Is the information current? Or is it older? Does this affect the research?
  • Objectivity: Is the author objective about the topic? Or does the information provide a more subjective point of view? How does this affect the research?
  • Coverage: Does the information cover all aspects of the topic? Or only a finite portion?
  • Accuracy: Is the information accurate? Is it verifiable from other sources?
  • Relevance: Is the information relevant to the topic? Does it directly relate to the subject? Or does it veer off-track?

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