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MSN Capstone: Library Resources

This guide is designed to assist Master of Science in Nursing or Graduate Entry-Master of Science in Nursing (GEM) students with the research components related to their MSN Capstone requirement.

What is Literature Review?

A literature review is a comprehensive, organized, and structured written synthesis of published literature (journal articles, books, book chapters, etc.) on a specific topic. A well-written literature review analyzes and synthesizes ideas from the literature in a clear, cogent, and logical manner. A literature review is not simply a summary of what has been published in the literature.

For more information on literature reviews, consult the books below: 

Print Books & E-Books from the UToledo Libraries on Literature Reviews

5 Steps for Getting Started with your Literature Review

1. Develop and refine your topic. It may help to phrase your topic in the form of a question using the PICOT framework

2. Brainstorm a list of initial search terms to find literature in research databases and map out your search strategy using Boolean logic (see the Search Strategy Hints box below)

3. Select relevant databases for searching (see Selected List of Relevant Databases by Subject below)

4. Choose one initial database to conduct your first search in. As you search in this first database, take note of any other relevant terminology that you observe in the search results. Add these new terms to your search strategy and refine your search accordingly.

5. Conduct your search in all additional relevant databases you selected in Step 3. 

Need help searching?

Selected List of Relevant Databases by Subject

The following is a selected list of relevant research databases. 

Explore all library databases by title or subject here

Databases What You Can Find Tutorials
Nursing/Health Sciences/Medicine
CINAHL (Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health Literature)
  • Articles in nursing, medical, and health sciences journals
  • Books, nursing dissertations, conference proceedings, drug records, research instruments
  • 3600+ active indexed and abstracted journals, 3100+ are peer-reviewed. 
Cochrane Library
  • Includes the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, a gold standard resource for systematic reviews of research literature on health care and health policy
  • Comprehensive index to biomedical literature with especially strong coverage on drug trials
  • Covers over 2,700 journals and thousands of searchable conference abstracts not in MEDLINE
  • Also includes current MEDLINE and OLDMEDLINE records


MEDLINE is available in various search interfaces: 

  • National Library of Medicine's index to journal literature.
  • Covers a broad range of biomedical, life sciences, and health care disciplines, including articles in nursing journals
  • 5000+ indexed and abstracted journals

EBSCOhost interface

OVID interface

OVID Nursing Full-Text Plus
  • Index to nursing literature combined with a nursing subset of MEDLINE records
ProQuest Nursing & Allied Health Premium
  • Index to literature in nursing, allied health, alternative and complementary medicine, and related fields
PubMed @ UT 
  • PubMed includes the MEDLINE index as well as citations to newer articles not yet indexed in versions from other vendors (such as Ovid EBSCOhost MEDLINE)
  • By accessing PubMed through the PubMed @ UT link, UToledo users can connect to full-text articles not available through the public URL
  • Point-of-care resource providing summaries of clinical information
  • For important information on how to access UpToDate, click here
Web of Science
  • Portal to several databases that index scholarly and technical literature in the sciences and social sciences
Education Full-Text
  • Covers a broad range of education topics
  • Includes citations/abstracts to articles in 1,000+ journals

Education Research Complete
  • Topics covered include all levels of curriculum instruction from early childhood to higher education
  • Full text provided for over 750 journal titles
ERIC (Education Resources Information Center)
  • Comprehensive index to a variety of literature and resources in education
Gender Studies
Gender Studies Database
  • Index to literature on women's studies, men's studies and sexual diversity issues


LGBTQ+ Source
  • Index to worldwide literature on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and other related topics
Women's Studies International
  • Index to literature in women's studies and feminism
  • Thorough coverage of all behavioral science and mental health topics
Psychology & Behavioral Sciences Collection
  • Covers a broad range of topics including emotional and behavioral characteristics, mental processes, psychological and psychiatric disorders
Sociology/Social Work
  • Comprehensive index to scholarly literature in sociology and related fields

Sociological Collection
  • Index to scholarly journals in sociology

Essential Search Strategy Techniques

Strategy Function

A keyword search is where you enter any terms you develop that describe your topic.

The database will retrieve results based on the exact terms you enter. Some databases will map those keywords to more specific subject headings. 

Keyword searching is very flexible and is the best way to begin a search, especially if you are unsure of the correct terminology to use.  As you begin reading through your results, you may notice trends and patterns in terminology (including other keywords or more precise subject headings/controlled vocabulary) that you can then apply as you revise your search strategy.

Typically retrieves several results, although some may not be relevant to your topic as keyword searching does not always take into consideration the context of search terms. 

VIDEO TUTORIALS: CINAHL Basic Searching EBSCOhost Basic Searching 

Subject Headings

(also known as "controlled vocabulary")

A targeted, precise, and specific way to search using a database's built-in controlled vocabulary.  

Various databases have their own subject headings - i.e. CINAHL Headings in CINAHL and the Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) in MEDLINE/PubMed.  

Controlled vocabulary subject headings function like a thesaurus and will take into consideration synonyms, related terms, narrower terms, broader terms, abbreviations, and variations in spelling. 

Typically retrieves fewer results than keyword searching (although not always - it depends on the topic), and results are oftentimes more relevant.  

VIDEO TUTORIALS: CINAHL & MeSH Subject Headings | PubMed Subject Searching

Boolean Operators

Boolean operators provide a logical way to combine keyword or subject heading terms using AND, OR, or NOT

AND will narrow your search by combining one or more terms together

cancer AND fatigue AND exercise will retrieve results with all of those terms

OR will broaden your search by retrieving results on any of the terms you enter

empathy OR compassion OR sympathy will retrieve results with any of those terms

NOT will exclude designated terms from your results 

immunodeficiency NOT HIV will retrieve results with the term immunodeficiency but exclude articles that mention HIV

VIDEO TUTORIALS: CINAHL Advanced SearchingPubMed Advanced Search Builder  


Use of an asterisk * after the root of a word will search for various word endings 

nurs* will find nurse, nurses, nursing

anesth* will find anesthesiology, anesthetist, anesthesiologist 

Phrase Searching

Use of quotes around words will retrieve results with that exact phrase. For example: 

"Algase Wandering Scale" 

"mindfulness-based stress reduction"

"animal-assisted therapy"


Use of parentheses will group desired search terms together in combination with appropriate Boolean operators in a single search box

(dementia OR "Alzheimer* disease") AND ("fall prevention" OR "fall risk assessment") 

This search will find results on dementia AND either fall prevention OR fall risk assessment

It will also find results on Alzheimer disease (or Alzheimer's disease) AND either fall prevention OR fall risk assessment


After conducting a search in a database, you can narrow and refine your search results by applying limiters or filters. These options vary from database to database. 

Limiters and filters for narrowing your results are often located along the left side of your database search results page. Select appropriate limiters/filters that are relevant to your topic or your information need. 

Common options include publication date, type of article, age group, gender, peer-reviewed, etc.