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Nursing Resources for Students and Faculty

What Kind of Question Is It?

All questions fall into one of two categories: background or foreground. What's the difference?

Background Questions Foreground Questions

Focus on general knowledge about an illness, disease, condition, process, or thing. These questions typically ask who, what, where, when, how, and why about something specific.

For example:

  • How do I insert a catheter?
  • What causes migraines?
  • When should I turn a patient with a pressure ulcer?

Focus on specific knowledge to inform clinical decisions. These questions typically focus on a specific patient or problem and are more complex when compared to background questions.

For example:

  • Is light therapy more effective at reducing jaundice in infants than no light therapy?
  • Is a pressure-reducing mattress more effective at preventing pressure ulcers than patient repositioning?

Why is this important?

The type of question you have will help you decide which resource(s) you should search. The best source for background questions are books and point of care resources like UpToDate. The best source for foreground questions are original research studies, which can be found in databases like CINAHL or PubMed.

Resources for Background Questions


The library has close to a thousand books, guides, handbooks, etc. on nursing. Most of these books are in print and are shelved in the WY section. The rest are ebooks that are available for use online. The best way to search for books in our collection is to use CatQuest.

CATQuest Search



Point of Care Resources

These resources provide searchable summaries of evidence on specific topics.They are updated regularly and synthesize all the best and latest evidence on clinical topics to aid with diagnosis and treatment. They save clinicians time and effort by eliminating the need to do rigorous research before making a patient care decision.

Need some help searching Natural Medicines? Please contact a librarian.

Need help searching UpToDate? Check out the searching section of their user's manual.

Need help searching VisualDx? This video will show you how to run a basic search.

Need help searching the Cochrane Library? Please check the User Guide for assistance.

Articles, Journals, Databases - What's the Difference?

Resources for Forground Questions

Research Databases

These resources provide access to original research, such as randomized controlled trials, as well as reviews of original research, such as systematic reviews. These articles usually focus on a very specific topic and population.

Need help searching CINAHL? Check out our keyword searching and subject searching tutorials.

Need some help searching PubMed? Check out this short tutorial.

Need some help searching Ovid Medline? Check out this basic searching tutorial.

Need some help searching Google Scholar? Please contact a librarian.

Need some help searching Web of Science? Please check out this video.

Need help searching PsycINFO? Check out this tutorial.

What Is a Research Article?

More often than not, you will be searching for a scholarly, or research, article. How can you tell if an article is a research article? Research articles usually have specific key elements that distinguish them from more popular articles. Click on the image below to see an illustration of these key elements. Clicking on each colored box will open a brief explanation.

Anatomy of a Research Article

If you'd like to learn more about research articles, please check out our Anatomy of a Scholarly Journal Article guide. It has more information about each section of an article as well as scholarly, or research, literature in general.

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