1. Dougherty, Molly C. PhD, RN

Article Content

We are indebted to librarians. They help us find sources, master electronic formats, and study our literature. Librarians have reported on a series of "mapping" studies of the nursing literature that examine resources used, formats and journals most frequently cited, and the best databases to access sources (Allen, Jacobs, & Levy, 2006).


Analysis of citations is a research method that provides a measurable path of information transfer. Using a common protocol for each area of nursing, studied core-journal titles were determined by placing those journals that held the top third of cited articles in Zone 1 and the middle third in Zone 2. Study of the coverage for the journals in 12 databases resulted in scores for the percentage of articles each database included (Allen et al., 2006).


In the 18 studies of journals during 1996-2000, 157,050 citations appearing in 53 source journals representing specific areas of nursing were analyzed, which resulted in 699 unique journal titles in Zone 1 or 2. Journals were the most frequently cited format and accounted for 65.5% of the total. Books (24.1%) and government documents (4.3%) were cited less often (Allen et al., 2006).


The nursing literature relies on relatively current references and is highly interdisciplinary. Literature less than 7 years old was cited more than 60%of the time. A small number of journals appeared in Zones 1 and 2 in each study. In fact, 8 journal titles appear on the lists for all the studies, 4 nursing titles and 4 biomedical titles. Weekly biomedical journals that publish large numbers of articles received the highest number of citations. Only 71 titles (10.2% of 699) appeared in Zone 1 or 2 for 8 or more studies. These results suggest that the number of primary journals is small and that citation of literature from multiple disciplines is the norm in the nursing literature (Allen et al., 2006).


The studies indicate that it is essential that we consult multiple databases for sources. CINHAL provides the best coverage for nursing journals. PubMed/MEDLINE provides average coverage for nursing and ranks with EMBASE and SCI for biomedical journals. However, for psychosocial topics, PsycINFO and SSCI are needed for complete coverage (Allen et al., 2006). The study results show that thorough scholarship requires search beyond the nursing literature and in multiple databases.


General, clinical, and functional areas of nursing literature were studied and published. The research was completed before electronic formats had a major influence on citation patterns. Planned follow-up studies will help us see the changes that electronic formats have made in the way we use and generate knowledge.


We are indebted to librarians for many reasons, and they include their contribution to our understanding of the characteristics and content of our literature.


Molly C. Dougherty, PhD, RN






Allen, M. P., Jacobs, S. K., & Levy, J. R. (2006). Mapping the literature of nursing: 1996-2000. Journal of the Medical Library Association, 94, 206-220. [Context Link]