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NUR 390W -- Nursing Research & Evidence-Based Practice: Welcome

Having Trouble Finding a Primary Source? First Understand What a Primary Source Is

Know the definition of a primary source. In nursing, the focus of a primary source is on original research from one research study.  A primary source in nursing is an article written by the researcher(s) who performed the research experiment and includes original research data.  Secondary sources are ones that summarize or compare primary research articles in a particular area, such as a Systematic Review.  A primary research article contains the following:

  • Introduction: Research question which defines the aim of the research
  • Methodology
  • Results
  • Discussion/Conclusions
  • References

Tip: Go to Key Components of a Research Article for a visual example and more information.

Tips on Searching for a Primary Source

Search in a database, such as Medline EBSCO or CINAHL Complete.  Use  subject headings or keywords in search boxes for your topic. Select "Advanced Search" and limit to last five years; limit to "Publication Type", then select "Clinical Trial."  A Clinical Trial is one type of common research study.  

Limit to publication type

Next, evaluate to determine if the article is a primary research article by reading the abstract. If there is not an abstract, read the article.  For help on looking for the full text,  see box below "Finding the Full Text."

  • Review the key components of the research article: research question, methodology,  results, discussion and references.  Make sure the article is not a Systematic Review, because that is a secondary source, which synthesizes many primary research articles on a particular topic.

Tip: Go to the Glossary page for definitions of primary source, secondary source, Systematic Review, and different research studies.

Email Kathryn.Rose@nau.edu if you have questions. Expect a reply within 24 hours Monday-Friday. If on the weekend, contact Ask Us!  from the library homepage in the upper right corner.


NAU Nursing Student Photo

The purpose of this Research Guide is to support you in your NUR 390W course learning outcome to utilize electronic resources to efficiently and effectively search, locate and evaluate desired research-based evidence.

Step Two: Search Nursing Databases for Evidence

Finding the Full Text

Most articles identified in the databases will have an abstract and then, if available, a link to the full text.

  • Look for a PDF or HTML link in the description of the article.
  • If you do not see a link to the full text, use the Check for Full Text link, it may be available in another database.
  • If it is still unavailable Click on Request It and we will get a digital copy for you. It's free! 

You can request any article that we do not have the full text to regardless of where you got the information from through our Request Materials service!

Research Help

Contact Kathee Rose, Librarian, for the College of Health and Human Services

Contact Info




      Kathryn Rose         Kathee Rose's photo           

Find a Practicing Guideline

To find a practicing guideline (which can provide possible intervention guidelines), an excellent place to start is:

NGC logo

National Guideline Clearinghouse - A public resource for evidence-based clinical practice guidelines.

How to Find an Article If You Have the Citation

Search for a specific article with known citation details.

Four Steps for Practicing Evidence-Based Medicine

Step One: Ask a Question using PICO format - Ask a clinical question.

Step Two: Search Resources for the Best Evidence - Search for best evidence to answer question.

Step Three: Appraise Evidence - Critically appraise evidence, assess study quality, etc.

Step Four: Apply Evidence - Integrate evidence with clinical expertise and patient preferences/values to apply in practice.

These are the first four steps of Evidence-Based Practice according to Melnyk, B. M., Fineout-Overholt, E., Stillwell, S. B., & Williamson, K. M. (2010). Evidence-based practice: Step by step: The seven steps of evidence-based practice. The American Journal of Nursing, 110(1), 51-53.