Searching the Literature of Nursology: Strategies for Success

Where is the nursing literature I need? (from https://www.iconsdb.com/green-icons/question-mark-8-icon.html)

Finding relevant literature is, of course, crucial for any scholarly work. I have been searching the literature about nursology discipline-specific conceptual models and theories for many, many years. When I first started these literature searches in the 1970s, I had to use printed indexes, which was exceedingly tedious and time-consuming, although I admit to enjoying the quiet time in university libraries. With the advent of computers and the internet–now many years ago—searching the literature took me out of libraries and into my home study or campus office and onto my computer and saved a great deal of time.

In this blog, I share the computer-based search strategies I have been using for many years. These search strategies have yielded the most targeted searches I have been able to locate for several years. Inasmuch as different vendors may use different keywords, readers are advised to seek help from a librarian if the strategies given here are not effective. Furthermore, readers are advised to read abstracts and articles carefully to determine if the indexing is accurate, as indexing errors do occur from time to tine.

The Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), which has the most comprehensive indexing of nursing journals of any database, may be accessed via various on-line vendors (e.g., OVID, EBSCO). The headings listed below yield the most relevant citations for specific conceptual models of nursing and nursing theories when searching CINAHL. Note that EBSCO has an Alert option (EPAlerts) that automatically provides citations periodically (e.g., each week, each month) that are sent to the requester’s email address. A university librarian can provide information about how to set up the Alerts using these search terms:

  • Johnson Behavioral System Model
  • King Open Systems Model
  • King Conceptual System
  • Kings Theory of Goal Attainment
  • Levine Conservation Model
  • Neuman Systems Model
  • Orem Self-Care Model
  • Rogers Science of Unitary Human-Beings
  • Roy Adaptation Model
  • Synergy Model AND Nursing
  • Newman Health Model
  • Orlandos Nursing Theory
  • Parses Theory of Human Becoming
  • Peplau Interpersonal Relations Model
  • Watsons Theory of Caring
  • Transitions Theory AND Nursing

Citations for general literature about conceptual models and theories can be obtained using these headings in CINAHL:

  • Nursing Models Theoretical
  • Conceptual Framework
  • Nursing Theory

Before 1988, the most relevant citations for specific conceptual models of nursing and nursing theories in the CINAHL database can be located by using the following subject headings. The same subject headings can be used to locate citations for general materials about nursing models and theories.

  • Models Theoretical
  • Nursing Theory

Medline may be accessed via on line PubMed through various on line vendors (e.g., OVID, EBSCO). The following subject headings yield the most relevant citations for conceptual models of nursing and nursing theories when searching Medline:

  • Nursing Models
  • Nursing Theories

Dissertation Abstracts International (DAI), which also includes Master’s Abstracts, may be accessed via various on line vendors (e.g., EBSCO) and databases, including ProQuest (http://wwwlib.umi.com/dissertations/). The search strategies listed below yield the most relevant citations for conceptual models of nursing and nursing theories when searching DAI:

  • behavioral system (keyword) AND nursing (subject) [Johnson’s Behavioral System Model]
  • King (keyword) AND nursing (subject) [King’s Conceptual System]
  • King’s (keyword) AND nursing (subject) [King’s Conceptual System]
    goal attainment (keyword) AND nursing (subject) [King’s Theory of Goal Attainment]
  • Levine (keyword) AND nursing (subject) [Levine’s Conservation Model]
  • Levine’s (keyword) AND nursing (subject) [Levine’s Conservation Model]
    conservation (keyword) AND nursing (subject) [Levine’s Conservation Model]
  • Neuman (keyword) AND nursing (subject) [Neuman’s Systems Model]
  • Neuman’s (keyword) AND nursing (subject) [Neuman’s Systems Model]
  • Orem’s (keyword) AND nursing (subject) [Orem’s Self-Care Framework and theories]
  • science of unitary human beings (keyword) AND nursing (subject) [Rogers’ Science of Unitary Human Beings]
  • Roy’s (keyword) AND nursing (subject) [Roy’s Adaptation Model]
  • adaptation model (keyword) AND nursing (subject) [Roy’s Adaptation Model]
  • Newman’s (keyword) AND nursing (subject) [Margaret Newman’s Theory of Health as Expanded Consciousness]
  • expanded consciousness (keyword) AND nursing (subject) [Margaret Newman’s Theory of Health as Expanded Consciousness]
  • Orlando’s (keyword) AND nursing (subject) [Orlando’s Theory of the Deliberative Nursing Process]
  • Parse’s (keyword) AND nursing (subject) [Parse’s Theory of Human Becoming]
  • human becoming (keyword) AND nursing (subject) [Parse’s Theory of Human Becoming]
  • Peplau’s (keyword) AND nursing (subject) [Peplau’s Theory of Interpersonal Relations]
  • Watson’s (keyword) AND nursing (subject) [Watson’s Theory of Human Caring]

A discussion of computer and hand searches that remain relevant today is given in Johnson, E. D. (1989). In search of applications of nursing theories: The Nursing Citation Index. Bulletin of the Medical Library Association, 77, 176–184.

Peggy Chinn reminded me to add that any search of the literature must include consideration of the source of citations. For example, all searchers should be alert to the concerns of literature published in predatory journals. See McCann, T. V., & Polacsek, M. (2018). False gold: Safely navigating open access publishing to avoid predatory publishers and journals. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 74, 809– 817. https://doi.org/10.1111/jan.13483  for discussion of predatory journals and guidelines for recognizing these open access publications, which are inappropriate journals for and citations of nursing literature.

Peggy Chinn also reminded me to caution readers about the use of the internet (e.g., Google) as a resource for searches of the nursing literature. She noted, “one of the ways that people get trapped into citing literature from dubious sources is that they use google to search for what they are seeking!” One important way to avoid getting caught in this trap is to use the indexes that I have described in this blog].

Readers of this blog are invited to add comments about their experiences searching the nursology literature and contribute other successful search strategies and search terms.