Skip to Main Content

How do you spot a scholarly (peer reviewed) article?

Many nursing assignments will require you to find scholarly articles to back up the points you are making. Scholarly (also known as peer reviewed or referred) articles are written by experts who wish share their research findings with their colleagues. 

For an overview of what makes a publication scholarly, please refer to our FAQ. Here is an example of a scholarly (peer reviewed) article in nursing (click on the pdf link to access the entire article). 

Not sure what peer review is? Check out the following video from North Carolina State University for a short explanation.

Finding Scholarly Articles

Video Transcript

This video provides tips for searching CINAHL, Google Scholar, and LibrarySearch. All of the tips shared for CINAHL will also work in Medline and PsycINFO (e.g. advanced search, asterisk *, quotation marks for phrase searching). Medline does not include a limit for peer reviewed articles - however, most of the results fall into that category (watch out for editorials and other non-scholarly material found in journals). For tips on searching PubMed, check out the PubMed - Find Articles on Topic tutorial.

Practice Quiz: Identifying Scholarly (Peer Reviewed) Articles

Practice Quiz: Test Your Search Knowledge

Review: Finding Scholarly Articles - Choosing the right tool

Search Tool What does it cover? When to Use It
Health Databases (e.g. CINAHL, Medline, PubMed, PsycInfo)

Scholarly (peer reviewed) journal articles

Trade magazines (e.g. Canadian Nurse, Alberta RN)

These tools were designed to help clinicians and health researchers find research quickly. CINAHL is most useful if you are searching for articles focused on role of the nurse and the nursing profession. However, PubMed or Medline are usually better places to start for health searches because they are bigger and cover a broader range of health disciplines (e.g. public health, medicine, nursing).
Google Scholar

Scholarly articles

Theses or PhD Presentations

Conference Presentation

Research Reports

(and more - information is not reviewed before it is added to Google Scholar, so be careful)

Google Scholar is more forgiving when it comes to finding the right words to use in a search because it searches the whole text of the sources, not just the article's title or abstract. This can be a blessing if you are struggling to find articles in the other tools, but it can also lead to an overwhelming amount of search results. Consider limiting by publication date. 


LibrarySearch Everything in the Library's collection including books, journal articles, magazines, videos, and more.  Use LibrarySearch when you are unfamiliar with your topic and are not sure where to start (e.g. for your GNED essay) or if you are looking for books and other kinds of sources on your topic. Make sure to use the limits provided to make your results more manageable (e.g. peer reviewed, creation date).

Adapted from Celia Brinkerhoff, Doing Research, CC-BY-4.0

Review: Choosing the Right Search Words

Most search tools (Library Search, Google, Health Databases) will try and find every word you type in the search box. For that reason, it is best to avoid typing in complete sentences, and only use words that must be in the source for it to be relevant to your project. For example:

Question: What are nurses' attitudes towards patients with histories of drug abuse?

Step 1: Identify the key words in your question. 

What are nurses' attitudes towards patients with histories of drug abuse?

Step 2: Consider if these keywords have any synonyms (words that mean the same thing) or alternative spellings (e.g. American vs Canadian spelling of words like labor/labour). These synonyms will be helpful if you are not finding the results you expected or you need to make sure you capture all the available evidence.

Keywords nurses attitudes patients drug abuse
Synonyms nursing, nurse perceptions, opinions, beliefs clients substance abuse, substance use, narcotics, addiction

Review: Tips for Finding Scholarly Journal Articles Using a Health Database or LibrarySearch

Do not type sentences into the search box! Always use AND or OR between different ideas:

o   AND (if you want all the words to appear in your search results) e.g. nurs* AND role* AND educat*

o   OR (if you don't care which word shows up) e.g. patient* OR client*

Use quotation marks "" to search for a particular phrase  e.g. "nurse researcher"

An asterisk (*) means I don't care how it ends  e.g. nurs*

Use the Peer Reviewed limit (Warning: This limit is not perfect, so it is still your responsibility to ensure that the article you have chosen is appropriate for your assignment)

The advanced search option in these tools gives you a more user friendly way to build your search


CINAHL, Medline or PsycINFO

Review: Tips for using Google Scholar

Do not type sentences into the search box! Google is looking for a source that contains every word you type in the search box, so focus on what is most important.

Use quotation marks "" to search for a particular phrase  e.g. "nurse researcher"

You can limit your results to journals with particular words in their title e.g. nurse patient communication source:nursing will only find articles published in journals that have the word nursing in their title like Journal of American Nursing, Advanced Nursing, Cancer Nursing, etc.

You can exclude particular words from your search by using a minus sign e.g. nursing intervention obesity -children will exclude results mentioning children.

It is Asking Me to Pay to Open an Article - What Do I Do?

While you are a student at MRU, you never need to pay to access an article. Sometimes you will come across articles in Google that will not allow you to access the full text - if that happens, here are your options:

- Copy the title of the article and paste it into LibrarySearch. If the article is covered by our subscriptions, a link will be provided to the full text.

- If we don't have the article in our collection, you can request a copy of the article for free using our Interlibrary Loan service.


If you are using Google Scholar at home, you will have to adjust the settings to see which articles are available full text through MRU library.


Choose Settings

settings option on google scholar



Select Library Links. In the search box, search for Mount Royal. Be sure to hit save!

choose library links and search for mount royal


Articles that we paid for access to will be flagged in your search results

Links to full text articles at MRU

Profile Photo
Cari Merkley

Phone: 403.440.5068
Office: EL4423U