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Nursing Research: Nursing Theory

A compilation of library resources that will help you find articles, books, and websites in the field of nursing with particular attention to nursing research.

What is "Nursing Theory?"

Nursing Theories are theoretical visions stated by persons in the nursing field as philosophies expounding on the virtues of selected nursing models. More specifically, nursing theories comprise a body of knowledge that explains observable happenings and circumstances in a systematic method, and are derived through deductive reasoning and inductive reasoning, being applicable to the practice setting.

There are four levels of theory: Grand Theory, Metatheory, Middle Range Theory, and Practice Theory. Many other theories fall into these categories.

Library Resources

Library Online Journals

Contains articles on various Nursing Theories

Internet Resources

Searching CINAHL for Nursing Theory

Here are some tips on searching CINAHL for nursing theories:

  • Do a broad subject search for Nursing Theory or Theoretical Nursing Models.   
  • Do an author search for articles written by a specific theorist (i.e. Abdellah).
  • Try a focused subject search on the specific theory you need; CINAHL has several subject headings for different theoretical models including Orem Self-Care Model, Roy Adaptation Model, Watson's Theory of Caring, etc. 
  • To really narrow down your search, combine a nursing theory subject heading with another subject heading.  For example, if you need information on Orem's theory and patients with cancer, combine the two subject headings of Orem Self-Care Model andCancer Patients.  

To see a sample search of combining subject headings, consult the Step-by-Step Searching in CINAHL* guide.

Use interlibrary loan to request articles that are not in the library's collection and, if permissions allow,  have them delivered to you electronically from another library within 2-5 days, or pick them up at the library Circulation desk.

*Information from The University of Toledo Library

How to best find articles authored by nursing theorists

  • To find articles written by a nursing theorist, you'll want to complete an author search in CINAHL.
  • Searching in CINAHL by author can be a bit tricky, especially for certain names.
  • CINAHL does not respond well when you do an author search that includes the person's first name or initials. You may want to search by last name only.
  • To do an author search in CINAHL, enter the person's last name into the top searchbox and select 'AU Author' from the 'Select a Field (optional)' dropdown.
  • If the last name is fairly common (ex: King) or the person has written many articles, you may get results that are not specific to your nursing theorist or nursing theory. HINT: After entering your theorist's last name and selecting 'AU Author' from the 'Select a Field (optional)' dropdown, enter a couple of words from the nursing theory name in the second search box and leave the dropdown at 'Select a Field (optional)'.

     CINAHL Search Examples (Author):

  • Parse ('AU Author' selected from dropdown)
  • King ('AU Author' selected from dropdown) AND goal attainment ('Select a Field (optional)' selected from dropdown)
  • Orem ('AU Author' selected from dropdown) AND theory ('Select a Field (optional)' selected from dropdown)

You can also click on the CINAHL Headings link in the blue tool bar at the top of the page. CINAHL headings allow you to search by subject.

In the browse box enter the theorist's last name. Check the box next to the model you wish to search. Once you select your term a green Search Database button will appear in the right side of the screen. Click on this button to run your search.