Searching for evidence-based information is a critical activity in the research process. Identifying the best sources to use as credible references and supporting materials increases the validity of the work performed. In addition, according to Ramsey et al. (2017), locating and appraising mechanisms make it possible to highlight high-quality resources based on the necessary criteria, thereby eliminating research bias. The purpose of this work is to identify the principles and advantages of locating and appraising sources by evaluating methods for analyzing electronic databases and identifying the strengths, weaknesses, and adequacy of the resources found. The interview with a scholar is an additional tool to reveal mechanisms for search strategies.
The interview was conducted with a scholar working in the research field for approximately 15 years. Having a Master of Science in Nursing, she was involved as a respondent and helped obtain important information. According to the position of the scholar, locating and appraising are procedures that improve with experience. In other words, the more often the researcher turns to auxiliary resources, the faster they accumulate knowledge regarding the credibility and relevance of specific databases. Therefore, the aspect of experience is essential to consider when trying to hone skills in finding adequate sources.
The scholar also offers some valuable appraisal tools to apply. Based on the study by Buccheri and Sharifi (2017), she mentions several relevant instruments. Among them, she lists the critical appraisal skills program (CASP) checklist, Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) checklists, and some other tools. According to the scholar, different instruments are suitable for distinctive research tasks. As a result, having specific objectives and tasks to implement, a researcher can choose an adequate appraisal algorithm.
My approach to locating and evaluating sources is based on a few steps to find and apply credible resources. By following the strategy proposed by McGrew et al. (2018), to begin with, I determine whether the platform that publishes relevant materials is reliable. If a particular resource is in an academic database that is trusted by the scientific community, its use is likely to be appropriate. I pay particular attention to online materials because, as McGrew et al. (2018) note, evaluating the creditworthiness of a website requires more attention than that of an academic platform. Platforms that publish information without authorship, as a rule, are not reliable to trust them comprehensively.
Another essential aspect that I take into account is the relevance of the resource. McGrew et al. (2018) draw attention to authors’ credentials as important criteria for evaluation and point to the significance of peer review. However, in addition to this, this is crucial to consider materials’ relevance, particularly the period of their publication. According to Ramsey et al. (2017), a valid source is usually new, which mainly concerns those with statistical data. I stick to the five-year rule; a resource published within five years is substantially more reliable than those older. Otherwise, the risk of data obsolescence increases, which violates the validity of the research process.
Finally, I use the necessary keywords to find the necessary sources. Buccheri and Sharifi (2017) mention this practice and draw attention to its value in the context of using academic databases. When having a clear understanding of the topic, I use the keyword filter settings. This allows me to find the most relevant resources, thereby helping to utilize valuable references. This approach, coupled with the aforementioned methods of locating and evaluating sources, is valuable in research activities.
In my research practice, I use the PubMed electronic database frequently. This platform offers a wide range of opportunities to search for relevant articles on nursing topics. For instance, the study by Mittal et al. (2017) suggests valuable appraising strategies based on research paper types. Advanced search options make it possible to select articles on the desired topics. As search words, I often use “nursing,” “review,” “intervention,” “evidence,” and some others.
Another electronic database I use frequently is Taylor & Francis. It includes thousands of peer-reviewed articles on a variety of topics, including nursing. The aforementioned research by McGrew et al. (2018) is in this database and offers valuable guidance on selecting online sources. A wide range of journals allows choosing those relevant to the topic under study. “Care,” “nursing,” evidence,” “patient,” and some other search words are the most common ones I apply.
Strengths and Weaknesses
The key strength of these resources lies in the provision of evidence-based materials and highly professional research. In addition, a wide range of sources is also a valuable option. As Ramsey et al. (2017) state, selecting resources from databases in accordance with a variety of parameters allows creating a high-quality research methodology. Evidence-based materials exclude errors in data collection and analysis. Therefore, these resources are essential as credible platforms with many articles.
At the same time, the analyzed resources have some weaknesses to take into account. One of them is too wide a choice of materials that are often outdated, which prevents from using them due to the risk of misrepresentation. Another gap is the trending nature of published research materials. Mittal et al. (2017) present the dynamics of different articles over the years and note distinctive indicators depending on current social or health trends. This narrows the likelihood of finding the necessary materials and increases the number of similar works.
The adequacy of resources can be determined by their relevance to specific tasks and sufficient evidence. According to Groller et al. (2020), nurses are to test sources’ reliability by adapting their content to real-life care. The resources reviewed include relevant and real data, allowing them to be applied successfully. In addition, the evidence base is sufficiently broad to suggest potential applications of the findings to nursing practice. Therefore, adequacy implies the correspondence of academic works to real research needs.
Moreover, adequacy can be considered a feature that describes the quality of the research strategies used. The analyzed resources are scholarly and have clear methodological frameworks. For instance, in the article by Ramsey et al. (2017), a hierarchical approach is utilized to achieve the stated goals. Applying clear methods of analysis and interpretation helps avoid bias. Thus, all the resources involved are adequate for the aforementioned reasons.
Locating and appraising resources are responsible tasks to perform to use credible and relevant materials in the research process. Relevant tools help find, evaluate, and utilize credible sources (Buccheri & Sharifi, 2017). The effective use of electronic databases allows searching for the necessary materials successfully and quickly. Academic background and evidence-based nature are the key strengths of the reviewed resources. Weaknesses include the obsolescence of research data and following trends in scholarly activities. Adequacy, as an essential feature, is expressed in the relevance of materials, sufficient evidence, and the quality of research methods.
Buccheri, R. K., & Sharifi, C. (2017). Critical appraisal tools and reporting guidelines for evidence‐based practice. Worldviews on Evidence‐Based Nursing, 14(6), 463-472. Web.
Groller, K. D., Adamshick, P., & Petre, K. (2020). Embracing evidence-based nursing and informational literacy through an innovative undergraduate collaborative project. International Journal of Nursing Education Scholarship, 17(1), 1-9. Web.
McGrew, S., Breakstone, J., Ortega, T., Smith, M., & Wineburg, S. (2018). Can students evaluate online sources? Learning from assessments of civic online reasoning. Theory & Research in Social Education, 46(2), 165-193. Web.
Mittal, N., Goyal, M., & Mittal, P. K. (2017). Understanding and appraising systematic reviews and meta-analysis. Journal of Clinical Pediatric Dentistry, 41(5), 317-326. Web.
Ramsey, I., Corsini, N., Peters, M. D., & Eckert, M. (2017). A rapid review of consumer health information needs and preferences. Patient Education and Counseling, 100(9), 1634-1642. Web.