Getting the Most Out of Citation Databases

Jackie McGrath, Roy Brown and Haifa Samra’s new article, “Before You Search the Literature: How to Prepare and Get the Most Out of Citation Databases,” will be especially helpful to emerging researchers and doctoral students (as well as clinicians):

Abstract: As evidence-based practice becomes more integrated into routine care, systematically searching of the literature is essential to making informed clinical decisions. To uncover all the evidence and get the most unbiased sense of what is known about a particular phenomenon or caregiving practice, a clear method of searching that is systematic is needed. This article provides a discussion of six steps in a systematic search: (1) constructing the question, (2) choose the appropriate database(s), (3) formulate a search strategy, (4) perform the search, (5) evaluate the results, (6) good results (answer the question) = use the search information, (7) bad results = start over (refine the search strategies). Tips for working with a librarian are also provided. Lastly, a checklist developed to facilitate the steps of the searching process is discussed and provided for use by readers. Nurses are not trained to systematically search the literature, yet evidence-based practice demands that nurses and all health professionals be familiar with the searching process, especially when making evidence-based caregiving decisions.


CFS: J Health Care for the Poor and Underserved

The Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved publishes original papers, commentaries, brief communications, reports from the field, columns, and reviews regarding the health of low-income and other medically underserved people. We welcome manuscripts. Though our concerns–access to, quality of, and cost of health care–are universal, our focus is on North America, Central America, and the Caribbean. Questions about the suitability of a topic should be sent to:  Our mailing address, telephone numbers, and fax number are:

Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, Meharry Medical College, 1005 D. B. Todd Blvd., Nashville, TN 37208 | Phone: 1-800-669-1269 or (615) 327-6819 | FAX: (615) 327-6362

Research reports, literature reviews (only in under-studied areas), policy analyses, evaluations of innovative or otherwise noteworthy health and health care programs; 2,501-10,000 words. Commentary on timely or controversial issues; referenced as appropriate; 1,000-4,000 words. Brief research reports, literature reviews (only in under-studied areas), policy analyses, evaluations of innovative or otherwise noteworthy health and health care programs; up to 2,500 words. Reports from the Field: This section of the journal is intended for brief, descriptive papers about programs, workshops, symposiums, courses, and other interventions that we believe will interest our readers. While still hewing to the highest standards for timeliness and accuracy. Reports are not structured as research papers and do not contain statistical analyses. Innovative and/or newsworthy events especially will interest our readers. We recommend a limit of 2,000 words. A column published in the journal since 2005, Heroes and Great Ideas is a space for telling the stories of people and initiatives that have worked successfully to improve life in medically underserved communities. Styles adopted vary widely and include traditional biographical or historical accounts, essays, and narratives. We welcome submissions to this section, which is reviewed by members of the editorial staff and editorial board. We recommend a limit of 2,000 words. Critical summaries of books, reports, videotapes, educational materials, and other materials of interest to our readers; 500-1,500 words. Full details at the journal’s Web site:

CFS: J Palliative Medicine

Journal of Palliative Medicine is the leading peer-reviewed journal covering medical, psychosocial, policy, and legal issues in end-of-life care and relief of suffering for patients with intractable pain. The journal presents essential information for professionals in hospice/palliative medicine, focusing on improving quality of life for patients and their families, and the latest developments in drug and non-drug treatments. Coverage includes:

  •  The latest medical advances in pain and symptom management
  •  Evidence-based protocols
  •  Model palliative care programs
  •  Clinical case reports
  •  Guidance for working with patients and their families
  •  Psychological and spiritual aspects of end-of-life care

Further information at:

Book Chapters: Scholarly Burial?

Although book chapters are a more common form of scholarly dissemination in the humanities, even in those fields the book chapter is problematic, and certainly more so in the natural, applied, and health sciences.

As Kent Anderson notes in “Bury Your Writing — Why Do Academic Book Chapters Fail to Generate Citations?” book chapters are far less frequently cited than are journal articles.

Anderson adduces several reasons for this dearth of citations for book chapters, chiefly their lack of on-line availability and of exclusion from indexes and databases, as well as the business and marketing models of book publishers.

CHE: Five Reasons to Think About How You Work

Writing for the Chronicle of Higher Education’s ProfHacker blog, Jason B. Jones offers “Five Reasons to Think About How You Work.”


Thinking about your system can help you make decisions about work based on your values. . . . Focusing your productivity system on next actions can help you fight through procrastination-driving despair. . . . Having a goal-focused productivity system can help you recognize when you are done, as well as whether you are successful. . . . Focusing your productivity system on measurable goals is a useful reality check, and can help you identify where you’re getting bogged down. . . . Having clearly-defined actions in your productivity system can help you focus on what you need to do and to get the stuff dependent on others out of your head.

In a crossover collaboration, Inside Higher Education hosted a GradHacker panel discussion on the topic:

Writing Letters to the Editor, Editorials, and Op-Ed Essays (Part I)

Nurses have indispensable observations and views about health care, but their voices are often under-represented in the mainstream media. One reason for this is that nurses are busy people with many competing commitments. Taking the time to craft a written response to a current issue in a timely fashion may seem a daunting task. This guide is intended to provide a simple and clear template that nurses can use to respond promptly to important issues. You can use this formula for any topic.

First, keep in mind that your response must be timely. Newspapers and other media may impose a time limit on responses, so make sure that you understand what that deadline might be.

Second, even if your letter, editorial, or op-ed essay is not published, it serves an important function: it educates the editorial page editor.

Third, if you are responding to the work of a reporter or journalist, send a copy of your response to that person as well; the journalist needs to be educated about nursing.

Finally, follow the instructions provided by the news outlet (e.g., length [usually limits on the number of words], how to submit).

Template for a Letter to the Editor

Template for an Op-Ed Essay

–Thomas Lawrence Long

Writing Letters to the Editor, Editorials, and Op-Ed Essays (Part II)

Template for a Letter to the Editor

Establish the context for your letter (the issue, article, report, editorial, op-ed essay that you are responding to).

    • Example: Your April 30 article by Jane Smith (“Physician Shortage Ahead”) ignored a vital healthcare profession that is already filling primary care gaps.

Establish your credibility (credentials or experience).

    • Example: As a clinical nurse for 25 years and a nurse educator for the past 15 years, I have seen how advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) have for years provided primary care to children and adults, diagnosing illness, and prescribing treatments.

Make your argument in one or two points by making an assertion and supporting it with facts.

    • Example: APRNs are educated and clinically experienced to provide comprehensive health care in the frontlines, helping families stay healthy with preventive care and being aggressive in treating illness. In 16 states they provide independent care at less cost than that of physicians, and they specialize in disease prevention and health promotion. According to a RAND estimate Massachusetts could save four to eight billion dollars over ten years with expanded roles for APRNs.

Conclude your letter with a call to action or a summary of your main idea.

    • Example: Your readers are not well served by ignoring the essential role that nurses will play in the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of health care, and future articles on the impending crisis must take APRNs into account.

Template for an Op-Ed Essay

–Thomas Lawrence Long