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NUR 1050

Introduction to Professional Nursing

College-Level Research

When you need information about something, what do you usually do?

  • Google it
  • Go to Wikipedia
  • Ask a friend, family member, teacher, coworker, healthcare professional, librarian, or other person you know who knows about the topic
  • Look for how-to or “explainer” videos on YouTube, TikTok, or other social media platforms
  • Check websites you trust or use “reference” sources like a dictionary

While these can all be great places to start, college courses require a higher level of research.

The research process: choose a topic, get background information, write a thesis or research question, search for information, evaluate information sources, organize your research, cite information sources, repeat as necessary.

DISCLAIMER: Research is messy!

The research process is not a straight line, and you will most likely need to go back and forth between different steps as you develop your paper or presentation.

In reality, your research process may look more like this:

Research process steps are shown with arrows connecting each step to two or more other steps. The process involves a lot of back and forth between steps.

Choosing Source Types

Scholarly (Academic) Journals

Audience: scholars, researchers, academics, professionals, students

Good for:

  • Empirical research on a topic  
  • Often peer reviewed (verified by other experts in the field)  
  • May include data, charts, tables, graphs, statistics, etc.  
  • Builds off existing knowledge in the field (cites credible sources)  

Be careful / consider:

  • Jargon or terminology may be difficult to understand  
  • Publication process takes longer, so the most current events aren’t covered until months later  

Audience: general audience, possibly a specific demographic (location, community, etc.)

Good for:

  • Up-to-date information on current events  
  • Published frequently (sometimes daily)  
  • Covers local, national, and international news  
  • Serves as a record of events containing quotes from officials, witnesses, and experts  
  • May also include statistics and images  
  • Includes a variety of types of information from objective reporting to opinion columns  

Be careful / consider:

  • Written by journalists, who usually aren’t experts in the subject  
  • New information may be contradicted and require corrections after original publication  
  • Publication may have an editorial bias (conservative, liberal, etc.) 

Audience: general audience, possibly relating to specific interests (such as hobbies, sports, and recreation)  

Good for:

  • Current information  
  • Usually short and easy to understand articles  
  • Often includes photos and illustrations  

Be careful / consider:

  • Authors may not be experts in the subject (secondhand information) 
  • May not cite sources  
  • Publication may have an editorial bias (conservative, liberal, etc.)  
Professional Magazines & Trade Journals

Audience: professionals (may include scholars) in a particular field or trade  

Good for:

  • Current information that is relevant to a particular field, profession, or trade  
  • Articles often include context and analysis relevant to a particular discipline  

Be careful / consider:

  • May not be peer reviewed  
  • Content varies in length and complexity  
  • May not cite sources  

Audience: general audience and/or scholars, professionals, and researchers

Good for:

  • Overview of a topic, potentially including background and historical context  
  • May build off existing knowledge in the field and provide suggestions for further reading (cites credible sources)  

Be careful / consider:

  • May be simplified (for general audience) or complex (for scholars)  
  • Publication process takes longer, so information is dated and does not include the most current events  
  • May be biased, depending on the author and publisher  

Audience: varies

Good for:

  • Many types: news, government, company, educational, personal interest, etc.
  • Can be about any topic and any skill level  

Be careful / consider:

  • Hard to check for credibility, accuracy, or bias 
  • May not cite sources  
Reference (Encyclopedias, Dictionaries, etc.)

Audience: general audience, possibly scholarly or professional

Good for: 

  • Useful background information on a subject 
  • Generally written as entries then compiled by editors 
  • May provide direction in finding additional (and more specific) sources   

Be careful / consider:

  • Does not provide in-depth information or specific research 
  • Quality and credibility vary, depending on the authors  

Audience: government officials and citizens

Good for:

  • Includes a variety of reports, websites, and data
  • Credible information 

Be careful / consider:

  • Often difficult to read or comprehend 

Downloadable Documents