NURS 372/374 - Nursing Research Concepts for Practice

Frequently Requested Definitions

Frequently Requested Definitions


Conceptual framework – “an abstract set of concepts and theories that are related to one another and may be used to organize ideas and guide analysis within a study” (Gerrish, 2006)

DOI – digital object identifier – abbreviated doi; a unique, permanent string of numbers and characters that uniquely identifies an electronic document. In research, this is normally used when citing a source for a reference or bibliography. 

The string usually begins with the letters, doi.

e.g.  doi: 10.1007/s11427-012-4313-z

Evidence based medicine – abbreviated EBM;  “the process of applying relevant information derived from peer-reviewed medical literature to address a specific clinical problem; the application of simple rules of science and common sense to determine the validity of the information; and the application of the information to the clinical problem” (Stedman’s Dictionary for the Health Professions and Nursing, 2012)

Evidence based practice – abbreviated EBP;  “the formulation of treatment decisions by using the best available research and integrating this evidence with the practitioner’s skill and experience” (Stedman’s Dictionary for the Health Professions and Nursing, 2012)

Integrative review - summarizes past research and draws overall conclusions from the body of literature on a particular topic. The body of literature comprises all studies that address related or identical hypotheses.  (Beyea & Nicoll, 1998)  It is an approach that allows for the inclusion of diverse methodologies (experimental & non-experimental research) (Whittemore & Knafl, 2005) 

Meta analysis - a type of systematic review that uses statistical methods to combine and summarize the results of several primary studies (Cook, Mulrow, Haynes, 1997)

Meta synthesis - a type of systematic review that combines qualitative research on a specific topic in which researchers compare and analyze the texts of individual studies and form a new interpretation of the research topic (Guyatt, Drummond, Meade, Cook, 2008)

Peer-reviewed journal - a journal which requires that, prior to publication, submitted articles be approved by a board of reviewers in order to evaluate the quality, validity, reliability of the article

PICOT – an acronym used to develop research questions; the acronym stands for:

Patient population of interest
Intervention of interest
Comparison of interest
Outcome of interest

(Critical Thinking TACTICS for Nurses, 2010)

Primary source – research which involves collecting data about a subject directly from the real world; e.g., interviews, case studies, diaries, email

Randomized controlled studies - “a type of experiment that randomly assigns subjects to various interventions, including a control group, in order to minimize the risk of bias” (Stedman’s Dictionary for the Health Professions and Nursing, 2012)  

Research article, primary or empirical – contains the results of a specific study; it reports new findings and conclusions; usually contains the following parts:  abstract, introduction, purpose, review of the literature on a specific topic, methods, data, results, discussion, limits of the study, recommendations for further research, conclusion, references/bibliography

Review article – in the health and medical literature, this type of article refers to an article which comprehensively scrutinizes a topic over a period of time

Root cause analysis – “Root cause analysis (RCA) is a structured method used to analyze serious adverse events. Initially developed to analyze industrial accidents, RCA is now widely deployed as an error analysis tool in health care. A central tenet of RCA is to identify underlying problems that increase the likelihood of errors while avoiding the trap of focusing on mistakes by individuals. The goal of RCA is thus to identify both active errors (errors occurring at the point of interface between humans and a complex system) and latent errors (the hidden problems within health care systems that contribute to adverse events). (Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, n.d.)

Secondary source – interprets, summarizes or comments on primary research, e.g., journal or newspaper articles, literary criticism

Systematic review - Summarizes large bodies of evidence; helps to explain differences among studies on the same question; applies scientific strategies that limit bias to the selection, critical appraisal and synthesis of all pertinent studies that address a specific clinical question (Cook, Mulrow, Haynes, 1997)

Tertiary source - a source which compiles primary and secondary resources, e.g., encyclopedias, textbooks





Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.  (n.d.).  Patient safety primers: root cause

            analysis.  Retrieved from

Beyea, S.C.& Nicoll, L.H. (1998).  Writing an integrative review.  AORN Journal, 67, 877-880.  

Clapp, J.E. (2000).  Dictionary of the law.  New York:  Random House.

Cook DJ, Mulrow CD, Haynes RB.  (1997). Systematic reviews: synthesis of best evidence

            for clinical decisions. Annals of Internal Medicine, 126(5), 376-80.

Gerrish, K., & Lacey, A.  (2006). The research process in nursing.  Massachusetts: 

            Blackwell Publishing.

Guyatt, G., Drummond, R., Meade, M., Cook, D. (2008). Users' guides to the medical literature:  A manual for evidence-based

clinical practice.  New York: McGraw-Hill Medical. 

Rubenfeld, M.G. & Scheffer, B.K.  (2010). Critical thinking TACTICS for nurses. Boston: Jones and Bartlett Publishers. 

Stedman’s medical dictionary for the health professions and nursing.  (2012).

            Philadelphia:  Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Whittemore, R. & Knafl, K.  (2005).  The integrative review:updated methodology.  Journal of Advanced Nursing, 52, 546-53. 

                                                                                                                        ERB 6/2016