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Finding Research and Review Articles

Research Articles

A research article describes an original study that the author(s) conducted themselves. It will include a brief literature review, but the main focus of the article is to describe the theoretical approach, methods, and results of the authors' own study.

Look at the abstract or full text of the journal article and look for the following:

  • Was data collected?
  • Were there surveys, questionnaires, interviews, interventions (as in a clinical trial)?
  • Is there a population?
  • Is there an outline of the methodology used?
  • Are there findings or results?
  • Are there conclusions and a discussion of the significance?

Research articles use a standard format to clearly communicate information about an experiment. A research article usually has 7 major sections:

  • Title
  • Abstract
  • Introduction/Objective
  • Method
  • Results
  • Discussion/Conclusion

A research article has a hypothesis, a method for testing the hypothesis, a population on which the hypothesis was tested, results or findings, and a discussion or conclusion.

 Nursing Online Resources and Research 

Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research

  Qualitative Quantitative

To understand and interpret social interactions.

Research that seeks to provide understanding of human experience, perceptions, motivations, intentions, and behaviours based on description and observation and utilizing a naturalistic interpretative approach to a subject and its contextual setting.

To test hypotheses, look at cause & effect, and make predictions.

Research based on traditional scientific methods, which generates numerical data and usually seeks to establish causal relationships between two or more variables, using statistical methods to test the strength and significance of the relationships.

Involves: Observations described in words of behavior in natural environment. Observations measured in numbers of behavior under controlled conditions; isolate causal effects.
Starts with: A situation the researcher can observe. A testable hypothesis.
Scientific Method: Exploratory or bottom up: the researcher can generate a new hypothesis and theory from the data collected. Confirmatory or top-down: the researcher tests the hypothesis and theory with the data.
Nature of Reality: Multiple realities; subjective. Human behavior is dynamic, situational, social and personal. Single reality; objective. Human behavior is regular and predictable.
Goals of study design: Participants are comfortable with the researcher. They are honest and forthcoming, so that the researcher can make robust observations.

Others can repeat the findings of the study.

Variables are defined and correlations between them are studied.

Drawbacks: If the researcher is biased, or is expecting to find certain results, it can be difficult to make completely objective observations. Researchers may be so careful about measurement methods that they do not make connections to a greater context.
Variables: Study of the whole, not variables. Specific variables studied.
Group Studied: Smaller and not as randomly selected. Larger and more randomly selected.
Some methods:

Open-ended interviews

Focus groups


Participant observation

Field notes

Close-ended interviews

Surveys and other instruments

Clinical Trials

Laboratory Experiments

Final Report Narrative report with contextual description and direct quotes from research participants. Statistical report with correlations, comparisons of means, statistical significance of findings.


Mixed Methods Research

Mixed-methods is more than simply the ad hoc combination of qualitative and quantiative data in a single study. It involves the planned mixing of qualitative and quantitative methods at a predetermined stage of the research process, be it during the initial study planning, the process of data collection, data analysis or reporting, in order to better answer the research question. 

Dictionary of Nursing Theory and Research

Review Articles

Review articles summarize the current state of research on a subject by organizing, synthesizing, and critically evaluating the relevant literature. They tell what is currently known about an area under study and place what is known in context. This allows the researcher to see how their particular study fits into a larger picture.

Review articles are NOT original research articles. Instead, they are a summary of many other original research articles. When your teacher tells you to obtain an "original research article"or to use a primary source, do not use an article that says review.

Review articles may include a bibliography that will lead you back to the primary research reported in the article.

 Nursing Online Resources and Research 

Systematic Review

Systematic Review - A systematic review is conducted to answer specific, often narrow clinical questions. These questions are formulated according to the mnemonic PICO (Population, Intervention, Comparison, Outcomes). A systematic review involves the identification, selection, appraisal and synthesis of the best available evidence for clinical decision making. A properly conducted systematic review uses reproducible, preplanned strategies to reduce bias and instill rigor and pools of information from both published and unpublished sources. A quantitative systematic review uses staistical methods to combine results of multiple systems, and may or may not be a meta-analysis.

It is not unusual now to find more that one systematic review addressing the same or similar questions paving the way for meta-summary or meta-study, a systematic review of systematic review.

Encyclopedia of Nursing Research


Meta-Analysis - a quantitative approach that permits the synthesis and integration of results from multiple individual studies focused on a specific research question. The outcome of this quantitative approach for reviewing literature has tremendous potential for a practice-based discipline such as nursing.

Encyclopedia of Nursing Research

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