Master of Nursing: Databases & journals

Steps for searching the literature

  1. The question or topic. Understand the research topic or question.
  2. Define your terms – examine your subject area and think about the keywords you will use for your research. Identify the key concepts from your topic.  Look for synonyms, alternate spellings and international variations for your subject(s).  Be aware databases may use different terms to describe the same concept. It is recommended to use the database thesauri (list of subject tems) to identify keywords. In the CINAHL database look up key terms in CINAHL headings to identify terms used to describe your topic in the database (see video below). In PubMEd and Medline search the MESH list of subject headings to help you identify search terms (see video below). Use a combination of keywords and CINAHL or MESH terms in your search.
  3. Combine your search terms using Boolean operators AND; OR; NOT
  4. Database searching   Run your search in a library database. The key databases for nursing literature are listed below.
  5. Review your results  Does your search retrieve articles relevant to your topic? If not, check that you have used Boolean operators correctly. Can you broaden your search by adding alternative terms (using OR)? You may need to go back to step 2 and review your search terms. If yes, do you have too many results? Can you apply any limits to your search? Can you add additional search terms (using AND) to further narrow your search?

Key nursing and health databases

ProQuest Databases

The Library subscribes to many medical and health databases available on the ProQuest database platform.

When you access the ProQuest database, you are automatically the content of multiple databases simultaneously. This includes scholarly journals, videos, ebooks and dissertations.

You can also focus your search to the specific database using the Databases link on the top menu. 

The following are some of the databases from ProQuest Central you might consult:

Health & Medical Collection

Nursing & Allied Health Database

Public Health Database

Using database subject headings - CINAHL; MESH

The videos below demonstrate how to use database subject heading lists to identify search terms and build a search strategy.

Using the CINAHL/MeSH Headings Feature in EBSCOhost (3 mins 32 s) video

Building a MeSH Search in PubMed (3 mins 21 s) video

Google Scholar

Google Scholar can provide a starting point  to  search for scholarly literature. 

Many VU library databases can also be searched through Google Scholar. Fulltext journal articles and research papers can be retrieved by clicking on the "Find Fulltext@VU Library" link when it appears to the right of your search results.  This will happen automatically while on-campus but may need to be set up as "Library Links" under Scholar Settings to work from off-site.

Try entering your own search terms in the Google Scholar box below.

Google Scholar Search

How can you tell if a journal is peer reviewed?


UlrichsWeb is the authoritative source to go to if you want to find out if a journal is peer-reviewed or not.

In UlrichsWeb, type in your journal title. If the journal name has an icon like a little black and white striped referee shirt , the journal is peer-reviewed.