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Nursing information in the library, from basic knowledge to specific types of research articles to video tutorials

NEW! Instrument Database (with some Full Instruments!)

Important Note

Instruments can be very difficult to get!

Most instruments (surveys, scales, questionnaires, etc.) are not published openly. You may find sample questions in the text of articles about the studies, but not the full instrument. Plan for the need to request your desired instrument from the authors or publishers. Some instruments even cost money to use.

Note: contacting authors is not as easy as it seems. One study found that the likelihood of finding a useable email address falls by 7% per year after publication. If the email address given in the article does not work, try doing a web search. Also try contacting other authors even if one author is specifically given as the 'corresponding' author.

Finding an instrument in a regular article search

Ideally, you'll find your instrument by finding a research article in your regular searching. Try one or more of these tips to improve your searches:

  • Use the 'Research' checkbox in CINAHL.
  • Use the 'Methodologies' menu in Medline or PsycInfo to focus on the type of research you are interested in doing.
  • Use keywords in your search like "questionnaire", "survey", "scale", or the name of an instrument you are interested in.
  • Some databases have 'Questionaire' and 'Research Instrument' (CINAHL), or 'Instruments', 'Surveys', etc. in the 'Publication Type' or 'Document Type' menu. PsycInfo includes "experimental materials" in the Supplemental Materials menu--this will find more than just instruments.

Once you've found an interesting article:

  • Quickly check the end of the article to see if they appended the instrument.
  • Read the Methods (or Procedures) section carefully to determine if the authors made up their own instrument or used someone else's.
  • If the authors made up their own instrument, but didn't publish it, do a search for additional articles that might have used the instrument (CINAHL's 'Times Cited in this Database' and Google Scholar's 'Cited by' links are especially helpful here.)
  • If the authors borrowed an instrument (and didn't publish their own version) use the references to find the original study/studies and see if any of those authors included the instrument.
  • If the instrument is not published, contact the authors to ask for the instrument and permission to use it in your own study.
  • Even if you do find the entire instrument published, contacting the author(s) is a good idea. There may be updates, specifications, or problems that were not published originally. It's also good research etiquette.
  • Occasionally an author will "retire" an instrument and refuse permission. Inquire what instrument they recommend for similar research. It never hurts to ask!

The majority of instruments are not published (though it is becoming more common).

Knowledge tests

Nursing literature includes a valuable type of article, the Continuing Education Unit (CEU). These articles offer something to read and questions about the content, provided by an association that offers CE credits (usually by mail-in or online testing). These quizzes can be a useful way to come up with knowledge tests, which can be used for pre- or post-tests before or after an education intervention.

  • In CINAHL, look for 'CEU' and/or 'Exam Questions' in the Publication Type menu.
  • Use a general search for your topic--don't get too specific.
  • Some quizzes are very specific, others may be more general, or even cover several articles within a journal issue.
  • If you want to use the quiz as a whole or the exact wording of specific questions, you should contact the testing organization for permission to use their quiz. (You would also need to do this for the answer key.)

Instrument databases and resources

We have 3 databases specifically for finding instruments and there are several similar websites. In all cases, these give you the references and information about the instruments, not the instruments themselves. Follow the citations (Find Article @ SCSU, Journal Title search, or CONSULS catalog search (for books)) for the articles that describe the instruments--even these articles may not have the instruments themselves.
If there is an Availability section, be sure to check for contact information.

     [topic] refers to the general subject of your study. Don't get too specific--examples: depression, smoking, attention deficit disorder, workplace safety.

  • to measure knowledge or opinions about a topic try "(knowledge or attitudes) and [topic]"
  • to measure the success of a program try "(assessment or evaluation) and program and [topic]"

Websites with instruments and other research options