How to Start Research

A major goal of the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses (AMSN) is to advance the art and science of medical-surgical nursing. This includes helping nurses feel comfortable using evidence-based practice (EBP) and research.

We encourage nurses to search the widely-available literature for relevant information that might address their research needs. Get to know the librarian if you have access to one at work or school. Librarians are the experts in searching data, and they can help you search health care related databases and guide you to more resources.

Types of Research

For medical-surgical nurses, understanding methods and analyses is vital for improving patient care and implementing evidence-based practices.

Research Roundtable is a dynamic collection of articles by MEDSURG Nursing Research Editor Lynne M. Connelly, PhD, RN, that provides a clear window for looking at these important issues. New articles are added regularly that describe different types of research.

View Research Roundtable articles.

Research Resources

Google Scholar

Each Google Scholar search result represents a body of scholarly work. This may include one or more related articles, or even multiple versions of one article. Get search tips on how to best utilize Google Scholar.


PubMed provides access to bibliographic information that includes MEDLINE. MEDLINE is the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s (NLM) premier bibliographic database. It contains references to journal articles in the life sciences with a concentration on biomedicine. Visit the PubMed Tutorial to become proficient.

PubMed Central (PMC)

PMC is the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) free digital archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature. Learn more about PMC.

National Guideline Clearinghouse

Clinical practice guidelines are international in scope, usually published by top scientists in the field, and protreatment modalities. An example of clinical practice guidelines is the National Guideline Clearinghouse.

The AMSN Hub

Another way in which you can find answers to your clinical questions is through the AMSN Hub. This interactive online discussion board connects you with other members that can help provide you with evidenced-based research as well as different standards from across the globe! Members of the Clinical Practice Committee (CPC) also moderate these discussions to help assist members in finding answers to their questions.

A Note of Caution

Websites like Wikipedia are great for checking on the life history of your favorite celebrity and tracking down when daylight savings time begins, but you will want to stick with legitimate sites for doing research.

For example, it would make better sense to look on the Mayo Clinic’s website for information on a medical condition then to check the numerous blogs and chat rooms that seem to pop up endlessly on our information superhighway.

We now have access to information that used to be available only to top universities and their researchers. Using evidence to plan our nursing care and support our practice is the direction we need to choose as medical-surgical nurses and scientists.

You Can Do This!

Each day you respond to numerous challenges. You manage your patients’ pain, administer medication, talk to the pharmacy, have contact with families and medical staff, communicate with the hospital laboratory and other areas, and much, much more without breaking a sweat.

After accomplishing everything you already handle, how difficult could it be to conduct research? You can do this! You are a medical-surgical nurse!


Jane Lacovara MSN, RN-BC, CMSRN, has additional suggestions for searching for information. Read her article "When Searching for the Evidence, Stop Using Wikipedia!"

See also