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Nursing - Literature Reviews & Systematic Reviews

Examples of Sources

Original Article

Original Article:  Provides new information based on original research, and presents a research topic, its background, methodology used, results, conclusion and discussion of results.  These usually appear in scholarly journals.

Bikker, A. P., Fitzpatrick, B., Murphy, D., Forster, L., & Mercer, S. W. (2017).  Assessing the Consultation and Relational Empathy (CARE) Measure in sexual health nurses' consultations.  BMC Nursing, 16(71).

Systematic Review

Systematic review:  a synthesis of research studies on a given topic.  The studies included in a systematic review are selected through pre-established criteria such as hypothesis or research question, patient/ populations, study design, and methodology.  Systematic reviews are used to provide an objective assessment of primary research evidence on a given topic, and are frequently used in evidence-based practice (EBP).

Hutchinson, M. & Jackson, M. (2013).  Hostile clinician behaviours in the nursing work environment and implications for patient care: a mixed-methods systematic review.   BMC Nursing, 12(25).  DOI:

Systematic Review Example

Protocol (for Systematic Reviews)

Protocol (for Systematic Reviews):  a document that describes and outlines the processes that will be undertaken while conducting a systematic review before it is conducted.  The purposes of protocols are:

  • to define the scope of the systematic review;
  • to outline the methodology used;
  • to report all anticipated research outcomes before the research is conducted;
  • to assist researchers with anticipating necessary changes to their methods used;
  • to reduce unintended or unnecessary duplications of systematic reviews; and, 
  • to promote transparency and minimize bias.  

​Lachance, C. C., Jurkowski, M. P., Dymarz, A. C., & Mackey, D. C. (2016).  Compliant flooring to prevent fall-related injuries: A scoping review protocol.  BMJ Open, 6(3):e011757.  DOI: 10.1136/mbjopen-2016-011757

Elderly Woman Walking in a Hallway


Meta-analysis:  a study that combines the statistical data of multiple studies based on pre-established criteria.  This is done in order to increase the power over an individual study, improve estimates of the size of an intervention or effect, or attempt to resolve uncertainty when the outcomes of multiple studies are not consistent.  The information drawn from a meta-analysis is often utilized in evidence-based practice (EBP).  

Bidwell, J.T., Lyons, K.S., & Lee, C.S. (2017). Caregiver well-being and patient outcomes in heart failure: A meta-analysis.  Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, 32(4): 372-382. Retrieved from

Meta-Analysis Example

Dissertation or Thesis

Dissertation:  a document on a scholarly or research topic done by a student to fulfill the requirements of attaining an advanced degree (usually masters or doctoral-level).  Scholars often use these to examine their works cited.  See Proquest Dissertations & Theses Global for examples (FAU log-in required).

Tripathi, S. (2010).  Knowledge based evaluation of nursing care practice model (master's thesis).  Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL.  


Book:  an authoritative work on a topic within a field; often presents basic information and theories which are the results of previous research.

Leffers, J., Smith, C. M., Huffling, K. Mc-Dermott-Levy, R., & Sattler, B. (2016).  Environmental health in nursing.  Mount Rainer, MD:  Alliance for Healthy Environments.  Retrieved from

Book Example

Conference Paper or Proceeding

Conference paper or proceeding:  a paper presented at a conference, meeting, or symposium of a professional, scholarly organization.  Many researchers use conferences to solicit feedback on their work from others within their field, and then use the feedback for updates, refinements, or considerations for their research topic.

Tan, A. J. Q., Lau, C. C. S., & Liaw, S. Y. (2017).  Serious games in nursing education: An integrative review.  Paper presented at 9th International Conference on Virtual Worlds and Games for Serious Applications (VS-Games), Athens, Greece (187-188).  DOI:  10.1109/VS-GAMES.2017.8056599


Government Document

Government document:  a publication or report of a government agency of any level.  These publications may include research, committee or agency reports, statutes and laws, regulations, and data.

Nurse Practice Act.  FLA. STAT § 464.001-464.027 (2017).  Retrieved from​

Nurse Practice Act

Standard in Nursing

Standard:  a set of guidelines established to define an expected level of quality and criteria of care provided within a healthcare setting.  In nursing, standards are created to define fixed or strong statements of norms within a given area of practice, and are established by professional nursing organizations. 

The following example of a summary of a standard:

 American Association of Critical-Care Nursing (2016).  AACN standards for establishing and sustaining work environments: A journey to excellence (2nd. Ed.)  Retrieved from

Standard of Nursing


Guideline:  a recommendation of good practice often based on research or professional experience.  A guideline provides suggestions that are flexibly interpreted and utilized  within a given context.  

American Society of PeriAnesthesia Nurses (2018).  Pain and comfort clinical guideline.  Retrieved from

Guideline Example

Trade Journal Article

Trade journal article:  practical information, news, or summaries of developments within a field.  Trade journals generally are not considered scholarly or do not focus on publishing original research.

See an example below.

Austin, S.  (2018, February 20).  Public health nurses are rooting out reasons disparities occur.  John Hopkins Nursing.  Retrieved from

Nursing Trade Journals

Other Types of Sources

A reference work is a collection of general facts within a field.  These can be used to find standards, measurements, or the general background of a theory.  Many types of reference works exist, but these three are ones commonly used in nursing.

  1. Handbook: a resource that summarizes major topics or processes within a field.  These often provide definitions, measurements, dosages, and established measurements or methods.  See Mosby's 2014 nursing drug reference (FAU log-in required).
  2. Standard:  a publication of requirements for methods, processes, and various practices within nursing.  A standard is established by a professional organization to provide a baseline of acceptable quality. See Nursing: Scope and standards of care (2nd Ed.) (FAU log-in required).
  3. Encyclopedia: a collection of summaries on selected key concepts within a field.  Scholars often use one as an initial resource to learn about an unfamiliar topic. See Gale encyclopedia of nursing and allied health (FAU log-in required).

Gray literature (also known as grey literature) generally consists of publications that are not distributed through scholarly or commercial channels such as professional journals.  Types of gray literature include trade reports, government publications, conference proceedings, and company research.  Some definitions of gray literature include publications such as blogs, statistical reports, white papers, and working papers.  

The purpose of gray literature varies and depends on the setting in which it is published and distributed.  In corporations or organizations, gray literature may be used to distribute new information, communicate for internal purposes, or to document activities.  One example is Healthy Aging Begins at Home, a grant-funded task force report by Bipartisan Policy Center.  For academic contexts, gray literature may be a forum for presenting ideas that may be emerging or do not yet have wide interest. 

Gray literature may be considered in any literature review in order have a broader view of what is discussed and researched on a particular topic.

The following document types are often retrieved in a database search.  Although they are not articles that directly communicate original research, their role is to provide an arena for commentary and discussion.  Select the links for examples:

  1. Commentary an expert's response to a study based on his or her knowledge or experience to it.
  2. Editorial a review or critique of articles within the featured issue of a journal, a brief discussion of a topic, or a notice of recent developments within a field.
  3. Letter to the Editor also known as correspondence.  These are usually written in response to content featured in a journal.  They may be used to generate new ideas.

Common Types of Sources

Scholarly or professional literature is literally a world of sources and publications!  The literature consists of many types of publications, and can also be in various formats such as print, online, or multimedia.  It is commonly found in an index and database search, and its information is used to communicate and inform nursing research and practice. 

The FAU College of Nursing emphasizes using the following types of literature for their assignments:  primary or original research, systematic reviews, and meta-analyses.  However, students will frequently encounter other sources during their literature search.  See below for examples and explanations.

Categories of Sources

Professional literature falls under 3 categories:


  Definitions Attributes Types of Publications Examples
Primary Literature Direct documentation or interaction with an event or occurrence.

Results of original research;

Peer reviewed

  • Peer-reviewed journal articles
  • Published experimental, quasi-experimental, mixed method, or qualitative research
  • Theses & dissertations
  • Laws & legislation
  • Conference reports or proceedings
  • Interviews & transcripts
  • Raw data
Chow, S.K.Y, Lam, K., Lie, S., Mak, K., Mong, K., So, C., & Yuen, W. (2018).  Do demographic factors and a health-promoting lifestyle influence the self-rated health of college nursing students?  BMC Nursing, 17(50).  DOI: 10.1186/s12912-018-0322-y
Secondary Literature Based on an indirect interaction with an event or information. Summarizes, uses, discusses, or comments on information from primary sources.
  • Textbooks
  • Trade journals
  • Books (not the result of original research)
  • Reviews: systematic, literature
  • Meta-analyses
  • Opinion pieces
Frederiksen, L., & Phelps, S. (2017).  Literature reviews for education and nursing graduate students.  Vancouver, WA: Washington State University.  Retrieved from
Tertiary Literature Also indirect interaction with an event or information.  Utilizes and distils information from both primary and secondary sources.
  • Handbooks
  • Manuals
  • Dictionaries
  • Encyclopedias
University of California at Santa Cruz (2018).  Student Health Center manuals.  Retrieved from


Last updated on Feb 23, 2024 11:55 AM