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Nursing - Using Library Resources for Information and Research: Steps to Finding Information

Online guide to research for FAU College of Nursing Students

Beginning Your Search for Information

I don't know!Where do I start? 

As a nursing student, your assignments will frequently require the use of scholarly, professional publications in the nursing and health science fields.  Although searching for these sources takes time along with writing your paper, having a plan will help the process go more smoothly.  Finding and Using Information Checklist has four broad steps to take when starting, and each step provides some tips that may make your assignment go smoother!

Image Credit:  By ElsaRiva on Pixabay.com by CC0.

Finding and Using Information Checklist

Choose a Topic

Read the Assignment.

The first thing to do is to understand the assignment and its requirements. Here are some points to consider:

  • What are the assignment requirements?
  • How long should the assignment be?
  • What types of resources should be used? Does information need to be from specific formats, such as books or journal articles?
  • When is the assignment due?
  • What is the purpose of the assignment? Does the assignment intend to be informative or argumentative?

Select a Topic.

Some assignments may provide a topic, while others may require students to choose their own. Try some of these steps to select a topic:Idea

  • Review the assignment requirements. Choose a topic that is appropriate for assignment requirements, along with its intended purpose.
  • Recall your experiences or area of expertise.Think about what you know or what interests you, and if it fits with your assignment.
  • Look at materials from class or other information sources. Review notes or handouts, including class discussions. Consult with encyclopedias, almanacs, or other reference sources. Ideas may be generated from exploring these.

Write It Down.

Once a topic has been chosen, write it as a full phrase or sentence. You may save time and effort in doing your assignment when your topic is clear and focused. To keep track of the steps done for your assignment, you may want to keep a written research log and note your progress.

Find Sources and Information

Search for InformationThe next step in the research process is to find sources and information to use in an assignment.  The FAU Libraries provides access to many of types of sources such:  

  • Books (in print and electronic formats)
  • Periodicals such as journals
  • Streaming Videos

Periodicals.

A periodical is any type of publication that is published on a regular basis.  Students will be required to use periodicals as sources of information in their assignments.  Periodicals usually fall under the following categories:

  • Scholarly or Peer Reviewed Journals. These type of periodicals report the results of scholarly research and are written by subject experts.  They are also known as refereed journals.  Please note that the FAU College of Nursing generally requires its students to use these for their assignments.
  • Trade or Industry Journals. These publications focus on particular industries or trade organizations, and generally do not report on research or new knowledge in a field.
  • Newspapers. Newspapers such as Miami Herald and Sentinel-Sun feature local, national, and international news written by reporters.
  • Popular Magazines. The focus is on current events, entertainment, or hobbies. These articles are written by journalists, and include extensive color photography and advertisements.

To find specific journals, go to the eJournals page to find what the FAU Libraries has available in an online format.

Locate Articles: Indexes and Databases.

Indexes and databases are online collections of various types of publications.  They provide information about publications and sometimes access to articles and journals. as well as statistics, dissertations, or reports.Library Home Page on Laptop

OneSearch can be used to quickly find publications and articles by using keywords from your topic to find library materials. For a quick introduction to using OneSearch, see our video tutorial.  To find publications and articles from nursing, go to CINAHL or other health science databases.

Full-Text. Some databases include full-text journal articles. If the citation of an article you want does not link to the full-text of the article, select the icon Find It @ FAU to find full text in other databases.
Find it at FAU

Interlibrary Loan.  Use Interlibrary Loan to request an article that is not available through a database or if its journal is not in the FAU Libraries.  Create your account through its home page, and then requests can be made.

A Note on Web Sites.

Caution SignSome professors may not allow the use of web sites in assignments and most forbid the use of sites such as Wikipedia.  On the other hand, many reputable nursing organizations and health related government agencies such as the U.S. Health and Human Services provide quality information through their web sites.  Check your assignment requirements to see if web pages are allowed to be used as references.

Web sites by educational, research, or government entities often provide reliable information; however, use other sites with caution. A professor or librarian can assist in selecting or recommending good sites.

Evaluate Information

Vast amounts of information are available through books, periodicals, and the Internet. However, a lot of it may not be useful or necessary for an assignment. Consider the following points when selecting your sources:

Author. Who wrote the material, and what are their credentials? If an author is not listed, check for an organization or group who wrote the content.

Currency. When was the information published? Is it recent, or from the past? Does your assignment require the use of up-to-date information? For a web page, see if a date is provided for when it was posted or updated.Scales of Justice

Audience. For who was the material written: the general public, students, or scholars?

Relevance. Can some or all of the information be used in an assignment? Select materials with useful information.

Bias. Does the author appear to prejudge the results based on their subjective opinions, preferences or what they can gain, or is the information affected by outside influences?

References. Does the article, book, or site list references or cite other works? Reliable sources of information have bibliographies or references at the end of their content.

Record It.

Keep track of your sources in a research log.  Citation management software such as RefWorks can also be useful for maintaining an online list of citations or sources.  This will help with recalling what has been used and in writing a bibliography. Record information about source material such as its title, author, and year published. Additional information may be needed, depending on the materials used:

Books:
  • Title
  • Author
  • Publication Year
  • Publisher
Periodical Articles
(Journal, Newspaper, or Magazine):
  • Title of Article
  • Title of Periodical
  • Author
  • Publication Year
  • Page Numbers
Web Sites:
  • Title
  • Author (or Organization)
  • Publication Date of Site
  • Date of Web Site Visit
  • URL / Web Address

Can't Find Sources?

If articles or information on a topic cannot be found, contact a librarian to help. In addition, consult with your professor to possibly change your topic. Sometimes a topic may need to be changed, and is common in the research process.

Write Your Assignment

Start composing your assignment once enough information has been gathered. Use an appropriate writing style for your audience and purpose of paper. Proofread your paper to check for spelling and other types of errors. Make sure your paper follows assignment requirements. FAU students can contact University Center for Excellence in Writing for consultations on the writing process.Writing

Here are some additional points to follow when writing your assignment:

Use a Style Guide.

Refer to your course syllabus, assignment notes, or class handouts for specific instructions on your assignment's required format and citation style. The most commonly used style for the FAU College of Nursing is the most current edition of Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, by the American Psychological Association.

Refer to your either your assignment requirements or Publication Manual to see rules on the format of your paper, organization of content, and most importantly, the works cited page. The Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University has a good online guide to APA style.  The APA Boot Camp LibGuide provides templates for formatting a paper and creating citations for books, journal articles, and other types of sources.

Cite Your Sources.

To create a bibliography or references cited page, refer to your research log, information collected, or RefWorks account if used to store articles.  Your references cited page should include journal articles, books, web sites, and other materials used in your assignment. Use the citation style and format as required in your assignment.

Citing sources is an important step in an assignment. This provides credit to an original author for their work. In addition, your professor will be able to see where your information was found by looking at your sources.

Avoid Plagiarism.

Plagiarism is considered stealing or cheating!  Stop SignPlagiarism is the act of copying, paraphrasing or using someone else’s words or ideas as your own without giving appropriate credit to the person. Using common, everyday knowledge and facts in your paper, without citations, is not a form of plagiarism (example: Tallahassee is the capital of Florida).

Some examples of plagiarism include, but are not limited to: 

  • Copying a direct quotation without using quotation marks around the information.
  • Submitting incorrect citation information for words or ideas that are not one’s own.
  • Copying someone else's assignment, or sections of it, and submitting it as one’s own.
  • Copying or reusing one's own work done for a different class and without proper citation (known as self-plagiarism).

FAU outlines how it handles plagiarism in its Code of Academic Integrity for students, and each FAU academic unit expands on it. Students accused of plagiarism may get a bad grade, receive a failing grade for a course, or face suspension or expulsion.

The best way to avoid plagiarism is to properly cite all sources of information! Cite where your information was found within the body of your paper and in the works cited page.

The Importance of Ethics and Information in Nursing