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Finding Credible and Scholarly Sources

Lesson 3: Finding Credible and Scholarly Sources

Finding Credible and Scholarly Sources

Course Outcomes and Lesson Objectives

CO 3: Identify resources within the course to assist with success

  1. Identify location of Chamberlain library within the course
  2. Identify library utilization as a required skill for retrieving evidence for professional nursing practice
  3. Demonstrate how to search using library databases

CO 4: Review the foundations of scholarly writing

  1. Identify scholarly databases
  2. Demonstrate the process of conducting a scholarly literary search
  3. Analyze website credibility using identified standards for website credibility


One of the essential skills of a master’s-prepared nurse is to integrate scientific findings into practice (American Association of Colleges of Nursing [AACN], 2011). The ability to search the literature in an efficient manner is an integral part of providing evidence-based practice and promoting the scholarship of nursing. In this module, we will focus on the principles of conducting a library search and determining the appropriate databases for conducting a scholarly inquiry. After exploring scholarly electronic databases, we will examine the principles of conducting an effective review of the literature. Finally, we will discuss the use of the World Wide Web as a source of scholarly information.

Scholarly Literature

Today’s healthcare environment is dynamic, and the ability to review and evaluate scholarly literature is a skill required of all healthcare professionals (Cleary, Hunt, & Horsfall, 2009; Thede & Sewell, 2010). It is imperative that you can discern if the information is current and relevant to your practice. For example, an article published in 1992 discussing the nurse-to-patient ratio will most likely not be applicable to the fast-paced nursing unit of today. As a general rule, the literature should be published within the last 5 years. The exception to the rule is a publication that is considered a seminal work. A seminal work is an original or fundamental publication that influences the thinking of others. An example of a seminal work is the article, An Outline of General System Theory, published in 1950, by Ludwig von Bertalanffy.

In addition to determining the currency of the literature, it is important to review the information for credibility and applicability. Ask basic questions about the article:

  • Who is the author?
  • What are the credentials of the author, and is the author qualified to provide the information?
  • Is the information current, relevant, and published within the last five years? If not, is the publication considered a seminal work?



Stop and Think

What is a primary source? Why is a primary source of information preferred over a secondary source? Is there any place for secondary sources in nursing?

Additionally, when conducting a scholarly inquiry, select publications written by experts in the field and published in a peer-reviewed journal. Peer review means that a publisher or a professional agency has had scholars in the field review the work to ensure that it meets professional standards. Peer reviewed work contains references for the sources used and the credentials of the scholar are included. When searching in the library, you can limit your search by checking the peer-reviewed box so that only peer-reviewed articles are displayed.

Wikipedia, Wikis, .com websites, and blogs are not considered scholarly and should not be used. This is because information from these sites may not undergo rigorous review. Whenever possible, sources should be no more than five years old unless they are historical references or approved by your instructor.

The most effective way to ensure that one is accessing high-quality, peer-reviewed articles is to access scholarly databases housed within the Chamberlain College of Nursing Online Library.










How do I find the Chamberlain Library to enable me in Finding Credible and Scholarly Sources?

There are a couple of ways to get to the Chamberlain library.  The easiest way to get there is to go directly to the library home page via the URL: (Links to an external site.)  It is recommended to make sure and save this URL as one of your favorites as you will be utilizing the Chamberlain library frequently during your graduate education.

You can also access the Chamberlain library when you are in any of your courses.  This requires a few more steps than utilizing the library link but it is important for you to know how to access the library in your Chamberlain courses.  Follow the steps below to access the Chamberlain library within this Orientation Course as well as all of your future courses with Chamberlain.

How do I find the Chamberlain Library in My Course to enable me in Finding Credible and Scholarly Sources ?

Step 1: Begin on your course home page

Step 2:  Click on the library tab

Scholarly Databases

There are many sources available to support scholarly work. The best option for finding scholarly sources is using a scholarly database. A database is a collection or repository of information that can be retrieved using an organized search process (Badke, 2014).  A scholarly review of the literature begins with identifying an appropriate library database. According to Thede & Sewell (2010), there are two types of library databases: knowledge based and factual. Choose a knowledge-based database when searching for published literature. Select a factual database to search in a reference book. Appropriate sources are peer-reviewed journals, books, and publications by organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Begin a literature search with a scholarly database such as the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), MEDLINE available through PubMed, and/or EBSCOhost – all databases can be accessed through the Chamberlain University library. Please note that there is not a universal standard for library databases; therefore, it is imperative to view a tutorial prior to searching a specific database (Thede & Sewell, 2010). A great way to begin searching in an online database is to take advantage of tutorials provided by the library.

How do I login to the Library Databases?

Click on this link for instructions:  (Links to an external site.) (Links to an external site.)   (Links to an external site.)

The Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL)

The Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) is a database that contains information specific to nursing. The CINAHL is owned and operated by EBSCOhost®. This database provides a large selection of journal articles. Please review the tutorial for using the CINAHL database here. (Links to an external site.)


When searching for multidisciplinary health-related literature, choose a database like MEDLINE® or MEDSCAPE®. MEDSCAPE® (owned by WebMD) offers free access to a large group of multidisciplinary professional journals, including nursing. While it is free, you must register on the site at (Links to an external site.). MEDLINE is a subset of these biomedical journals, which are optimized for physicians. This database is also indexed in PubMed® and located on the National Institute of Health website. This site provides an excellent tutorial for searching PubMed® at (Links to an external site.). The HELP page contains a brief overview and a Frequently Asked Questions page. Go to (Links to an external site.)

Basic Search Skills

Begin the basic search by identifying a topic of interest. Next, write down keywords related to the topic (ensure the terms are spelled correctly). Please note that conducting a simple search will most likely yield a very large query. When merely entering multiple words into a search engine, the assumption is that the searcher desires a publication that contains all of the words. There are ways to narrow or expand a search to increase the likelihood of applicability to the identified topic. One way is to use quotation marks or a plus sign to narrow the search, and the dash or minus sign will broaden or expand the search. A common way to increase the precision of the search is to use Boolean logic. Boolean logic consists of three terms: the use of AND, OR, or NOT. Please note that these terms are entered using all caps. The Boolean term, AND, is used to narrow the search; OR is used to broaden the search; and NOT is used to narrow the search by excluding a specific term. One caveat with using NOT is the potential to eliminate relevant information (Thede & Sewell, 2010; Cleary, Hunt, & Horsfall, 2009).

When searching the CINAHL and MEDLINE databases, information retrieval is controlled by the use of medical subject headings (MeSH®). In healthcare literature, it is not uncommon to use terms interchangeably; MeSH®-vocabulary retrieval of information comes from a variety of sources that use similar terms for a subject (Thede & Sewell, 2010; Cleary, Hunt, & Horsfall, 2009).

The Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) is an international research organization. Its purpose is to promote and support evidence-based healthcare practice by dissemination of knowledge. The Joanna Briggs Institute Evidence-Based Resources are available on OVID through the Chamberlain Library.

To access the library page for some help with search basics, you can Click Here (Links to an external site.)


The introduction of the World Wide Web (WWW), which is part of the Internet, has made a tremendous impact on society. This technological advancement has permeated every aspect of life. Not only is the Internet used for banking, shopping, and socializing, but it provides access to an infinite amount of information. There are many sites that are appropriate for use when searching for Web-based, health-related information. Two great choices are those published by government agencies and organizations; these domains will have a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) ending in .gov or .org. It is still important to be careful when reviewing websites, even .org websites can have inaccurate information.

You can find excellent resources on the Internet, but be sure to evaluate the sources for credibility (Thede & Sewell, 2010). Remember that anyone can produce a website. Just because something is published on the Internet does not mean that it is accurate. The astute scholar must evaluate the content for credibility. Follow a systematic approach when evaluating online information. Use these criteria for evaluating Web-based sources:

  • authority;
  • information;
  • objectivity;
  • ease of navigation; and
  • privacy and security policies.


Remember This

Wikipedia is an example of a source that is great for general knowledge and entertainment purposes, but an inappropriate source for inclusion in a scholarly paper. Wikipedia, by design, has the potential to be edited by anyone, expert or not. Many of the items contain no reference or support and may have inaccurate information.


Stop and Think

A peer says to you that she plans to use Wikipedia as a reference for her graded discussion board topic. Is this an appropriate reference for a professional assignment? Why or why not?

Search Engines

A common misconception is that one can merely type a topic into a search engine and conduct a scholarly review of the literature. Although finding credible information is possible, it is not plausible. Search engines do not always delineate whether you have selected a scholarly online journal, a newspaper article, a website page, or an electronic magazine (Thede & Sewell, 2010). You must take the time to evaluate each source and the information within it for credibility and suitability for inclusion in a scholarly document. It is not possible for you to review source items for accuracy without the citation (Thede & Sewell, 2010).

A more appropriate Internet source for conducting a scholarly review of the literature is to use an electronic search engine, such as Google Scholar or the Google Advanced Scholar Search. Google Scholar contains information taken from other sources with an emphasis on content located on the Internet (Kent, 2005). Google scholar is a database you can access in the Chamberlain library.  The difference between Google and Google Scholar is that the Google Scholar search engine is designed to locate scholarly resources (Kent, 2005).

Remember This

One caveat when using Google Scholar: You must review the content for credibility. Google Scholar is not a database like MEDLINE or CINAHL. Google Scholar uses filters to sort information found on the Internet to determine if it is likely to be from a scholarly source, but it does not guarantee this filtering technique. Google Scholar is especially helpful in finding fugitive research that is published outside of mainstream publications.


This module outlined the process of scholarly inquiry, which begins with conducting a search of the literature. The initial step is identifying a topic. Use the topic to determine the appropriate type of database for conducting the search. Once the topic is narrowed, and a database is selected, search the literature for evidence related to the topic. Upon completion of the search, analyze the literature, synthesize the information, and organize the document according to where the reference will fit into the paper (e.g., introduction, literature review, etc.). Discussion covered how to identify an appropriate source for conducting scholarly inquiry and evaluating websites for credibility.

Finding Credible and Scholarly Sources

Finding Credible and Scholarly Sources

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