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Nursing - Undergraduate Students: Search Tips

Library of the Health Sciences

Video Tutorials

What does "Peer-Reviewed" mean?

Throughout your education at UND, you will probably be told repeatedly to use articles from peer-reviewed journals for your assignments.  What does that mean?  Peer-review is a process in which an article is evaluated by an expert(s) in the field, i.e. the author's scholarly peers.  The reviewer provides his or her opinion on whether the article should be published.  Ideally articles from peer-reviewed journals should be more trustworthy than materials pulled from sources that are not reviewed, such as newsletters or most websites.

How do you know if a journal is peer-reviewed?

Sometimes the journal's official website will make it very obvious that it's peer-reviewed.  If not, look to see if the journal has an "editorial board."  You might also try looking up the journal on the Instructions to Authors website.

How do I search for peer-reviewed articles?

CINAHL allows you to limit your search to peer-reviewed journals.  First run your search, following the search tips provided in the CINAHL handout.  On the results screen, you'll see ways to limit your search on the left-hand side of the screen.  Click on the limit labeled "Peer Reviewed."

General Search Tips

Finding articles should be the easiest part of your assignment.  One strategy that can make your research run more smoothly is the use of subject headings, like MeSH.  Subject headings are what we call "controlled vocabulary."  In other words, they are terminology that are used to identify all the articles on a given topic.  For example, you could do one search for articles with the subject heading "Carbonated Beverages," instead of searching for all variations of the word "pop" (i.e. "soda," "coke," "soft drink").

When choosing your subject headings, remember this: "Search for Specificity."  Searching by broad, general concepts will retrieve many results, but you'll have to wade through lots of irrelevant articles.  Therefore it's generally advisable to start your database searches with "narrower" (i.e. more specific) terminology to retrieve fewer, but more relevant, results.  You can always expand your search later if you don't find what you need.  For example, a search for "Gastronintestinal Diseases" will retrieve over 600,000 citations, but a search for "Stomach Ulcer" will retrieve less than 23,000.  You should then add a second term to narrow your search even further.

Feel free to contact myself or the library reference desk if you would like help finding subject headings for your research topic.  After all, that's why we're here!  See the contact information to the right.

Have you ever wondered why librarians and professors discourage you from using Google for your assignments?  I certainly did when I was a student.  Well, scroll down to watch a video that explains why.

Why do librarians hate Google?

First of all, we don't hate Google; at least, I don't.  It can be a very useful tool.  However, it is important that everyone learn how to use Google intelligently; that includes knowing when not to use it!  If you have a few minutes, I encourage all of you to watch this 9 minute video.  The speaker, Eli Pariser, gave a presentation at TED2011 that discusses the personalization of search results in Google.  Here's what you should take away from his presentation: Google searches should not be relied on for your health sciences research because the results aren't reproducible.  Pariser demonstrates how Google (and other search engines) personalize your search results based on a variety of factors, including your physical location and your browser history.  This personalization is done automatically; you probably don't even know that it's happening.  What is arguably the most important characteristic of scientific research?  That someone else should be able to reproduce your findings.  So do yourself a favor: don't use Google for your medical and health sciences research.