1. Krishnamurthy, Mangala MLIS, AHIP
  2. Wood, Felecia PhD, RN, CNL

Article Content

Scholarship is an integral component of doctor of nursing practice (DNP) programs. Selecting, reading, and synthesizing evidence-based literature and development of skills in scholarly writing need to be mastered by DNP students. Writing for many postgraduate students in clinical practice has been limited to documentation in patient records and reports. Entering doctoral students, many of whom are returning to school after years of working in the profession, may not have conducted literature searches using subject databases such as the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), PubMed, and Cochrane. Upon enrolment in a DNP program, when students are expected to use the latest research, excitement for doctoral study can quickly be replaced with frustration, fear, and exasperation.


The authors' college of nursing, in a joint postmaster's DNP program with 2 other colleges of nursing, created a required introductory writing course for first-semester online students. The goal of the Writing for Publication course is for students to develop skills necessary for the creation of a scholarly article suitable for publication, an expectation for the end-of-program scholarly project. The purpose of this article is to describe an innovation to help novice doctoral students maximize knowledge and use of library resources necessary for writing and success in doctoral study.



Challenges are faced by all who teach in online programs to better meet the needs of students at a distance. Consistent, reliable modes of communication must be readily available for making connections between faculty and students and for students to connect with other support system personnel such as information professionals and writing centers.1 Teaching faculty have added responsibility in collaborating with other units on campus to facilitate these critical connections and make adjustments to teaching practices to enable learning for online students. Adult learners who are expert practitioners may feel intimidated by advanced technology and insecure about using resources remotely. They may also doubt their skills in scholarly writing.2


One-time lectures by librarians are being replaced by ongoing collaboration with nursing faculty members to provide online instruction and materials that help students develop research skills throughout an academic program. Efforts to incorporate information literacy within the academic program provide students expert assistance in using library resources and services remotely.3,4 Librarians connect with students to provide expertise for searching literature and help students navigate the rapidly changing landscape of information using a more streamlined approach.


The need for and success of the partnership between faculty and librarians in writing courses help students develop information literacy and organizational skills necessary to enhance confidence in writing. Students frequently have questions about finding appropriate literature that may be best answered by someone other than the faculty member teaching the course. Information professionals in academic libraries encounter online students who have information needs that require additional instruction. Exposure to current technology with tutorial support, timely assistance, and synchronous online sessions early on facilitates online student satisfaction and retention in the academic program.5-8 Students may not be aware of the valuable resources readily available without a collaborative partnership between the librarian and nursing faculty.


A separate course devoted to information literacy is rare in the nursing curriculum. Students need to learn, practice, and integrate strategies for searching the literature, exploring systematic reviews, and finding evidence-based data using major subject databases such as CINAHL, PubMed, and Cochrane.9 A partnership between nursing faculty and the librarian enhances the librarian-student relationship and provides students professional assistance to facilitate searches for evidence-based literature using library resources.


Educational Intervention

In an effort to acclimate students to university libraries' resources, the reference librarian annually records a narrated video tour, which is embedded in the course management learning system. The tour introduces search strategies using keywords/Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) terms, how to use bibliographic software such as RefWorks/Endnote, PubMed, and MyNCBI and other subject-specific databases (see Table, Supplemental Digital Content 1, Enrolled students watch the video on the first week of class. After viewing the video and reviewing assignments, they join a synchronous session with the course faculty member and librarian to ask questions and seek clarification from the recordings and to interact with the librarian. A secondary objective of the synchronous session is to acquaint students with the reference librarian who offers individual assistance via phone or email, ensuring that these distance students know that the university libraries are not only for on-campus students.


Course faculty and the librarian conduct a practice session to ensure technology challenges are addressed and the technology functions correctly before going live. During the live session, students are encouraged to submit questions via chat that are addressed in real time. The synchronous session is also recorded and archived for an individual review later as needed to refresh learned skills, a feature that is convenient when students face connectivity issues or other technology glitches during the live session. Recording of the synchronous session also ensures that students have access to the resources if employment schedules or time differences prevent active participation. Students are encouraged to contact the librarian for future assistance and for more in-depth research help. Student assignments mirror skills learned in the video and the synchronous session, allowing for immediate use of skills and knowledge gained. For example, students are required to set up a MyNCBI account, create a reference page using bibliographic management software, and conduct a PubMed search using Boolean operators and MeSH terms.


Feedback from students at the end of the semester acknowledge the value of the synchronous session, not only for skills learned but also for the personal approach provided by the librarian. Meeting students virtually in a live session via an academic learning management system for library orientation accomplishes many learning objectives in less than 2 hours. Viewing statistics of the recorded session for fall semester 2016 recorded 147 views and a total viewing time of more than 24 hours, indicating that many of the 75 enrolled students viewed the recorded session more than once. Students are introduced to their point of contact within the library, not only a phone number and an email address-the connection of a name with a face and voice can be comforting to distance students. Students learn to navigate university library resources and services from the expert. Although nursing faculty are knowledgeable about library resources, the librarian is the true expert and available to help students when needed.



Introducing students to information literacy skills and resources, such as the reference librarian, early in the curriculum promotes confidence in the ability to sustain the demands of doctoral study. The value of interaction between faculty and the librarian models for students the importance of collaboration with other disciplines to achieve a goal rather than continuing the ineffective strategy of working in silos, a lesson students can apply in both their work and educational environments.




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