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Nursing Library Guide: Finding journal articles

Guide to library resources for nursing students showing how to find information in books and journals, referencing and essay writing.

Databases vs random internet searching

Journal databases are online indexes to the academic journals and generally speaking, these give superior results when searching for information. They are more reliable in unlocking the contents of peer-reviewed journals and have more reliable links to full-text when compared with random  searchng of the internet where much of what is found is irrelevant in content or inaccessible to full-text.

How to find information in a journal

There are numerous indexes that help you locate information in journals. Indexes that are available online are commonly referred to as databases. These indexes in database format, usually cover a specific subject area or discipline such as Medicine or Nursing. To find nursing-related articles, the best database to use is CINAHL (Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health).

Finding journal articles in Primo

Primo is an aggregated library search engine which uses a single interface to find books, articles in journals as well as other media types. When searching in Primo, you can filter the results of your search to a specific aspect or subject of the topic you are researching. You can then filter to articles. In this way, you will have accessed the contents of numerous databases which index journals in your subject area. You can further narrow your search by date.

Ebsco Databases

EBSCOhost is a platform for a number of full-text research databases providing access to information in various disciplines such as business, medicine, nursing, education and psychology. The following databases can be recommended for nursing students:








Provides extensive coverage of all facets of Africa and African studies




The authoritative resource for nursing and allied health professionals, students, educators and researchers



Health Source: Nursing/Academic  

Provides full text journals focusing on many medical disciplines including the Lexi-PAL Drug Guide, which covers 1,300 generic drug patient education sheets with more than 4,700 brand names.




Comprehensive source of life sciences and biomedical information




Database of the American Psychological Association          

It is possible to search across a number of databases at the same time. Access these databases from the List of Databases on our home page or from the EbscoHost platform. Remember to go via the off campus login first if you are off campus.


The MEDLINE database is the most comprehensive source of life sciences and biomedical bibliographic information. From the Bongani Mayosi Health Sciences Library home page we link to two of the most popular platforms that access MEDLINE, namely PubMed and MEDLINE via EBSCOHost. While the EBSCOHost platform facilitates access to the full-text articles, PubMed, the free platform for MEDLINE, has a very powerful search functionality and should not be overlooked when a comprehensive review of the medical literature is required.    

Image result for pubmed

For more information on PubMed see the following:

Google Scholar

  • An academic search engine, Google Scholar is particularly useful if preferences are set to link to UCT's online collection. Google Scholar is a good source of ‘cited by’ references and provides links to related articles.
  • Find the link to Google Scholar under Databases by Platform on the home page.
  • Go to Settings, Library Links, and search for University of Cape Town. Tick the box for ViewIt @UCT and save. 
  • Note: if you are signed into the Off-Campus login, it is neither necessary nor advisable to sign into Primo as well, even if Primo is the link to full text.
Google Scholar Search

Searching the Web

Peer-reviewed journals usually contain more reliable and authoritative information, so using the databases mentioned above is highly recommended. However. sometimes it may be necessary to search the web using a search engine like Google. Care should be taken to evaluate the web site in terms of who the authors are, the reputation of the organization, the currency of the information and the accuracy of information covered. Avoid commercial web sites where the url ends in .com. Sites to prefer are those that end in .edu or .ac (educational organzation), .gov (government web site) or .org (non-profit organization).