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Tips for Finding Evidenced-Based Sources in Nursing

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Melissa Mills has 20 years experience as a BSN and specializes in Nurse Case Manager, Professor, Freelance Writer.

11 Followers; 123 Articles; 26,581 Profile Views; 286 Posts

If the term evidenced-based researches causes you to cringe, this article is just for you. Learn how to identify credible and valid resources that leave your professors and colleagues impressed.

Tips for Finding Evidenced-Based Sources in Nursing
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Do you cringe at the idea of having to look for "evidenced-based research" for assignments or work? The term itself can be confusing and finding it can be down-right hard.

If the thought of perusing through page after page of online journal articles does not sound like fun, this article is for you. Let's dive into a few things you should look for when searching for evidenced-based research.

What is evidence?

Evidence is examples, facts or sources you search for and use to support your ideas or hypothesis. This information comes from studies, data, or journal articles. Evidence can be further broken down into two kinds - primary and secondary sources.

Primary sources are first-hand experiences. They provide an account of the observations seen by the researchers who conducted the study. Examples of primary sources in nursing include pilot studies, cohort studies, survey research, and dissertations.

Secondary sources are critiques of primary sources. They may summarize or compare the results of studies to draw their own conclusions on a particular subject. According to the University of Washington, Tacoma, examples of secondary sources in nursing include reviews, newsletters, clinical care notes, patient education information, and entries in nursing or medical encyclopedias.

What do you look for in a source?

Choosing the right evidence can be difficult. You need to make sure the evidence you use fits the standards of the assignment, industry, or discipline.

When looking for evidenced-based evidence in nursing, be sure the source is:


Credibility in sources means they are peer-reviewed and scholarly. This is a fancy way of saying that an expert wrote the article and other experts reviewed it before it was published.

Why should it be peer-reviewed? Having several experts review the article increases its quality and research conclusions, making it more scientific.

How can you tell if it is a credible source? Some online databases can provide searches that deliver anything from a magazine article to a journal article. Here are a few good rules to follow:

  • Websites: If you're using websites in your research, be sure to use the right kind of sites. Use websites with ".gov or .edu" at the end. Stay away from the ".com and .org" sites.

The exception to this rule is when you are familiar with the source and know that it is reputable. Examples of this include the American Heart Association or a hospital system like Mayo Clinic, which both have ".org" sites.

  • Journals: According to Emory University, the credibility of a journal is in the following factors:
    • The journal should be indexed in a major database recognized in the field.
    • It should have a long publishing history.
    • Journal articles should be peer-reviewed.
    • The journal should have an impact factor, which is a statistical measurement based on the average number of times articles have been cited over the previous two years.


Evidenced-based research in nursing must be reliable, which means that if the study were done again, it would it have the same or similar results. The peer-review process ensures reliability. When reading studies, be sure to find out the limitations of the study. Reliable research will usually list the limitations seen during the research process.


Heale and Twycross define validity as the extent to which a concept is accurately measured in a quantitative study. For example, a survey designed to measure asthma symptoms that actually measured COPD symptoms would not be valid.

Appropriate to your subject

If you are writing a paper for a masters of nursing program, you are going to want to make sure your evidence is in alignment with the course and subject. Using a blog article in an academic paper is not appropriate.


There are times that you may choose a subject and then find that the supporting evidence is lacking. In these scenarios, do not attempt to make the evidence support your subject when it simply doesn't. Be sure to choose articles that are in alignment with your topic.

Finding the sources

By using the tips above, you should be able to find evidenced-based sources. If you are writing for a different industry, be sure to research the expectations for that industry, as they can be different from one sector to the next.

Do you have other tips for finding evidenced-based sources in nursing? Have you found a great public database that could help other students and medical writers? If so, share your comments, thoughts, tips, and tricks below. We enjoy hearing your thoughts and engaging in conversation about your nursing practice.

Melissa Mills has been a nurse for 20 years. She is a freelance writer, career coach, and owner of makingspace.company. She enjoys writing about leadership, careers, lifestyle, and wellness.

11 Followers; 123 Articles; 26,581 Profile Views; 286 Posts

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