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Evidence-Based Nursing: 2. ACQUIRE: Gathering Evidence

For BSN students, learn the basics of EBP in nursing, how to write a clinical question and appraise evidence.

2. ACQUIRE: Gathering Evidence

To gather the best evidence for your question, you will need to know how to search and where to search. It is strongly recommended that you complete the BSC Library's Nursing Library Orientation to learn about keyword searching and database search strategies. Then review the article below for more tips on searching databases with the PICO keywords from your clinical question. 



Once you have your keywords, you can start searching the databases for articles. CINAHL and PubMed are the best bets, but the other databases listed are worth a search as well! 


1. Enter your terms (keep it simple!) into separate search boxes

2. Before hitting search, scroll down to "Search options" and complete the following: check "apply related words", "peer-reviewed", and English and then enter date range.

3.  You can edit the search by clicking "Advanced Search" or "Edit" in the search history.  You can add nursing specific limiters to get articles from nursing journals or written by nurses.  Use "First Author Is Nurse", "Author is Nurse", and "Nursing Journals".

4. You can also limit by specific publication types (such as systematic reviews) and by population characteristics (such as age and gender).

4. If you decide not to set limiters or want to add or edit limiters, you can refine your results further by using the limiters available in the menu next to the results. There are exceptions, such as "apply related words" and publication types; you'll have to click Edit or go to the Advanced Search Screen.  NOTE: Use limiters one at a time so that you don't make your search too narrow!


1) When the full-text is available, you will see a link to either a PDF or HTML version in the left hand corner of the record.

2) You can find useful information about the article, including the DOI (or digital object identifier); you will need the DOI for your APA citation.

3) Use the Publication Type field to determine what kind of journal article you have. 

3)  There are several useful tools in a record.  You can print the article, save it to Google Drive, or email it to yourself.  You can also generate a citation, but be sure to check it against an APA manual!

4)  If the full-text is not available in CINAHL, you can click on the computer icon that says "Check on Godot system"; this is located in the left-hand corner of the record. If an article is available in another database, there will be a link; if not, you'll be prompted to fill out a request.  You can also check Google Scholar for access.


1. PubMed uses automatic term mapping and should find synonyms for you.

2. Be as specific and precise as possible. You might only want to start with two concepts.  

3. Do not use punctuation or abbreviations (ER, ALS, etc).

4. Use the filters to focus your results

5. Check to see if the library has access to full text by searching for the title in Google Scholar.  If you have configured Google Scholar, you will be able to see whether or not the library has access.  Sometimes there are free versions as well.

6. In addition to checking the keywords and MeSH assigned to promising articles, Look for the Similar articles link 

More Resources: 




In addition to searching scholarly journals, conference proceedings, and dissertations, Google Scholar returns results from student theses and some papers from questionable sources, so evaluate each source carefully! Many articles are behind journal paywalls, so you can search for the article titles in the library databases or request full text at 

Google Scholar Search