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Provides resources, strategies and information on conducting research in nursing.

Resource Evaluation

Due to the breadth of health sources available, it's important to be able to efficiently appraise the credibility of information sources. While there are many models that can be used to appraise websites and online information, generally they ask similar questions related to authority, purpose, references, and currency. This is the Four Ws Model:

  1. Who created this information?A woman is sitting at a desk and holding a tablet. There are question marks hovering above the tablet.

    • Is it created by an Institution, Professional Association or Organization, For-Profit Company, Government?

    • What are the qualifications of the content creators?

    • Check for an "about us" or "bio" section.

  2. What is the purpose of this information?

    • Who is the intended audience?

    • For websites, what is the site set up for?

    • How is the content paid for?

  3. Where does the information in this source come from?

    • Are there citations for information and research presented as fact?

    • Are methods provided for data or research materials presented?

  4. When was the information last updated?

    • Does the content or website itself show when it was last updated?

    • How current is the information or research cited?

Scholarly vs Popular

Sometimes it is hard to tell whether you are looking at a journal/scholarly or a magazine/popular full-text article. Below are clues that can help you determine what kind of source you are looking at.


  • Scholarly: Detailed report of original research or experiment; often structured with background, methods, and results.
  • Popular: Secondary report or discussion which may include a personal narrative, opinion, or anecdotes.


  • Scholarly: Author's credentials are given, usually a scholar with subject expertise.
  • Popular: Author may or may not be named; may or may not have subject expertise.


  • Scholarly: Scholars, researchers, students; subject-experts
  • Popular: General public; the interested non-specialist.


  • Scholarly: Specialized terminology or jargon of the field; requires prior knowledge.
  • Popular: Vocabulary in general usage; understandable to most readers.


  • Scholarly: Required. All quotes and facts can be verified.
  • Popular: Rare. Scanty, if any, information about sources.


  • Scholarly: Journal of Clinical Nursing; many have Journal in the title. Often only available in libraries.
  • Popular: Popular Science, Discover, National Geographic, Wired, news magazines. Almost anything available in a store.

Publication Types

  • Commentary: Work consisting of a critical or explanatory note written to discuss, support, or dispute an article or other presentation previously published.
  • Data set: Organized collection of data which has been stored permanently in a formalized manner suitable for communication, interpretation, or processing.
  • Dissertation: Work made to fulfill requirements for an academic degree.
  • Editorial: Work consisting of a statement of the opinions, beliefs, and policy of the editor or publisher of a journal, usually on current matters of medical or scientific significance to the medical community or society at large.
  • Grey literature: Unpublished, non-commercial, hard-to-find information that organizations such as professional associations, research institutes, think tanks, and government departments produce. (Grey Literature research guide)
  • Peer-reviewed article: A published manuscript that has undergone evaluation by experts in the field.
  • Practice guideline: Work consisting of a set of directions or principles to assist the health care practitioner with patient care decisions about appropriate diagnostic, therapeutic, or other clinical procedures for specific clinical circumstances.
  • Preprint: Scientific manuscript made available prior to peer review.
  • Protocol: Detailed description of a study. It contains the study's objectives, design, and methods including subject target and/or enrollment criteria. It may also present relevant scientific background and statistical information.
  • Systematic Review: A review of primary literature in health and health policy that attempts to identify, appraise, and synthesize all the empirical evidence that meets specified eligibility criteria to answer a given research question. 

Definitions from MeSH Publication Characteristics unless otherwise noted.

How to Read a Paper