Nurse reviewing research papers 3

Exploring ways MSN students can evaluate and combine current research

Nursing research is more than just a trendy phrase within healthcare circles. Thanks to nursing research, nursing students can identify ways to overcome healthcare barriers, fine-tune education, promote cultural sensitivity, and advance nursing knowledge and evidence-based practice.

This is especially important in reducing costs and increasing care quality, considering data shows the US spends nearly 18% of its gross domestic product on healthcare but ranks poorly among high-income nations in patient outcomes. Through effective nursing research, students can establish best practices in clinical guidelines, patient safety, treatment interventions, care models, health promotion and education, policy development, and cultural competence.

Doing so empowers nursing providers to use evidence-based clinical protocols to deliver optimal patient care and enhance care quality. Because new information is always coming to light, nursing students must quickly evaluate and combine current research to correct old misunderstandings, create innovative treatment protocols, and respond to various healthcare environment changes.

However, this can be complex because it involves gathering new and existing information from various data sources or first-hand information. Moreover, it highlights the development of comprehensive theories, principles, and generalizations that might help steer the practice. Therefore, nursing students must follow specific steps to review and synthesize current research and determine areas of need relative to nursing practices.

Understand research methodology

Before nursing students can evaluate and combine existing research, they must understand the techniques, strategies, and processes used to gather information to uncover new data and better understand a topic. If nurses do not understand how to interpret these studies, how can they evaluate the legitimacy of their nursing practices? How can they postulate for evidence-based changes and improvements in their practices? Put simply, understanding different research methodologies allows nurses to do the following.

Promote evidence-based practice

Evidence-based practice integrates patient values, medical expertise, and the best available research evidence in clinical judgments. Understanding different research methodologies empowers nurses to appraise research studies critically and implement the findings in their clinical practice.

Deliver quality patient care

Delivering quality patient care is the foundation of the healthcare industry. By understanding research methodologies, nurses can assess the quality and reliability of research studies to implement evidence-based interventions and protocols that improve patient safety and outcomes effectively.

Encourage patient-centered care

Part of delivering quality patient care is ensuring patients participate actively in their medical treatments. Knowing various research methodologies enables nurses to personalize treatment plans and meet unique patient needs and requirements, resulting in more patient-centered care.

Participate in nursing innovation

The nursing industry is undergoing ongoing change, evolution, and constant transformation. Various health system developments, rising medical expenses, and technological advancements actively contribute to these changes. However, the pace of change has risen dramatically as the world has dealt with the pandemic and several healthcare challenges in the past years. By understanding research methods, nurses can participate and contribute to research studies, helping develop innovative treatments, care models, and technologies that advance the field.

Promote patient advocacy

Understanding research methodology allows nurses to advocate for their patients by sharing evidence-based data with healthcare teams and connecting them with outside resources. Doing so ensures nurses can protect the patients’ rights, stand up for their interests, and allow patients to receive the best care available.

Understanding nursing research methodology is a continuous process of learning and application. As nursing students encounter research studies and engage in evidence-based practice, they will continue to refine their knowledge and skills to deepen their understanding. Research methods used in uncovering new information in nursing include the following:

  • Qualitative research

Qualitative research generates evidence and assists nurses in identifying patient preferences, exploring how or why things have occurred, and interpreting or describing events and actions.

  • Quantitative research

Quantitative research uses statistical analysis to uncover patient patterns and relationships. This allows nurses to generate knowledge and comprehensively understand a particular population’s circumstances.

  • Mixed methods research

This nursing research method incorporates qualitative and quantitative approaches to help nurses analyze the statistical data available with deeper contextualized insights. Using various data sources, nursing students can explore diverse perspectives and uncover relationships between the intricate layers of their multifaceted research questions.

As nursing providers and policymakers work toward ensuring quality and safety for patients and their families, nursing students can use the above research methods to explore modern healthcare trends and practices across increasingly diverse practice settings. Doing so allows nursing students to facilitate more significant scholarly interactions and enrich their experiences as different perspectives illuminate the studied issues.

Develop critical appraisal skills

Nursing research is essential in advancing treatment techniques and improving patient outcomes. However, the quality of research can be highly variable due to several factors and challenges within the field. Contrary to popular belief, nursing research encompasses various topics, from clinical interventions to healthcare policies. Moreover, variability in data collection techniques, study designs, and research methods can lead to differences in research quality.

On the surface, this might not seem significant, but when you dig deeper, it creates a bias that undermines the quality and reliability of the research. When there is bias, studies with positive or statistically significant findings are more likely to be published, while inconclusive or negative results may go unreported, resulting in misguided clinical practices. This can lead to treatments with unreported negative results being overused and potentially safer and more effective care interventions being underutilized.

Therefore, nursing students must develop critical appraisal skills to distinguish evidence from assumptions, eliminate irrelevant information, and assess the viability of studies. Nursing students can develop critical appraisal skills to determine and appraise the best available evidence to integrate it with their clinical experience and patients’ values. Patient value and care-related decisions are developed using an essential integration process of patient preference, clinical experience, and the best existing evidence.


Critical appraisal skills allow nursing students to examine research by evaluating its reliability, value, and relevance for effective decision-making. However, developing critical appraisal skills involves practice, ongoing learning, and a quality education. The masters in nursing online programs from leading academic institutions, such as Wilkes University, ensure nurses are best placed to utilize research in valuable ways. Wilkes University offers an innovative and quality-driven course designed to improve critical appraisal skills.

Nursing students can also engage in research projects to deepen their skills or seek guidance from experienced nursing researchers and faculty members to gain valuable insights and feedback on their critical appraisal skills. They can also use powerful critical appraisal tools to have a structured criterion for evaluating research and assess a study’s strengths and weaknesses. Developing critical appraisal skills empowers nursing students to aid in optimizing healthcare resource allocation, ensure patients’ evidence-based care is grounded in the ethical principles of non-maleficence and beneficence, avoid reliance on flawed evidence, and identify gaps for improvement in existing studies.

Consider the research question

Acknowledging the research question is essential in defining the specific issue or topic the nursing research aims to address. This allows nursing students to establish the research’s purpose and direction and provides a starting point for data generation. However, for nursing students to pinpoint what they want to discover, they must ensure their research questions are focused on a specific problem, researchable using primary or secondary resources, and feasible to answer within the timeframe and practical constraints.

Research questions must also be specific, relevant to their study fields and society, and complex enough to develop the answer over the space of a thesis. This ensures that their research can encourage research and skills development, problem-solving, and critical thinking, all of which are valuable for advancing the practice. By grounding research questions in these dispositions, nursing students can gain essential help in collecting and analyzing information to generate evidence.


This evidence can support educated decision-making by nurses in clinical settings and influence patient care and treatment choices. Moreover, it also empowers nursing students to address gaps in existing literature. These gaps can present opportunities to contribute to the field by conducting comprehensive research that fills these knowledge limitations and creates a solid foundation for their research endeavors. With a strong starting point for addressing issues, nursing students can identify and articulate specific problems and areas of concern within the field and ensure research findings apply to clinical decision-making.

Additionally, engaging students with research questions cultivates inquiry and critical thinking, which is essential in interdisciplinary collaboration from other healthcare disciplines. This allows nursing students to focus on questions that align with their interests, expertise, and specific research objectives. Furthermore, considering the research question ensures a structured research approach, drives the discovery of new knowledge and evidence-based nursing practices, and allows them to recognize and address areas that require improvement.

Nurse reviewing a literature review

Master the literature review

A literature review ensures research studies are grounded on a solid theoretical and empirical foundation. This is especially important in delivering evidence-based practice since it offers the underlying principles and mechanisms that guide clinical decision-making. Without a robust theoretical and empirical bedrock, evidence-based nursing practice lacks a coherent understanding of the processes associated with patient-centered care.

Therefore, nursing students must master a literature review to identify effective interventions and best practices that can be applied to improve patient outcomes. Additionally, mastering literature reviews allows nursing students to develop research skills that effectively contribute to the field’s knowledge base and address healthcare challenges. These skills are crucial for making healthcare decisions and keeping professionals current with evolving nursing trends and advancements.

Mastering the literature review also allows nursing students to assess and integrate existing research effectively, reducing redundancies and avoiding duplicating studies that have already been conducted. Duplicate publication is a serious issue that raises copyright concerns, adversely impacts research integrity, and distorts evidence. A comprehensive literature review promotes efficiency and prevents unnecessary repetition of research efforts while helping nursing students maintain the quality and validity of their research studies.

Identify knowledge gaps

Determining knowledge gaps in nursing research is essential in combining and building upon existing research. Knowledge gaps arise from unexplored phenomena, unanswered questions, new knowledge frontiers, practical challenges, and conflicting findings. It is, however, worth noting that research gaps are not entirely bad. Contrary to popular belief, knowledge gaps provide nursing students with a clear rationale and justification for their study.

By addressing identified knowledge gaps, nursing students can strengthen the credibility and importance of their study and demonstrate its significance and relevance. An excellent start is performing a comprehensive literature review to understand the current state of knowledge and identify areas where the evidence is inconsistent or limited. When conducting a literature review, nursing students must seek patterns that suggest knowledge gaps and consider their clinical relevance.

Nursing students must also review their key motivating questions and identify key terms associated with the issue. For example, there might be a lack of understanding of the mechanisms behind a particular nursing process, or disease, or how a specific healthcare technology informs or enhances the nursing practice. By recognizing the unknown, nursing students can ensure resources and efforts are focused on the most needed areas. Furthermore, it promotes innovation and discovery by encouraging nursing students to explore areas and develop innovative approaches to unresolved questions.

Stay updated with current research

Nursing research evolves as healthcare becomes more complex and new technologies emerge. Staying updated with current research empowers nursing students to know the most recent interventions, treatments, and discoveries. This enables them to assess the quality and relevance of existing research articles, refine their critical appraisal skills, and combine current research to advance the practice.

When nursing students are updated with current research, they can create more comprehensive and updated literature reviews by incorporating the latest findings. This allows them to analyze sources critically, determine key themes and concepts, and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each data source. When they can better assess the relevance of existing research, nursing students can eliminate outdated or less applicable studies and streamline the process.

Nurse contributing to innovative research

Moreover, it also gives them a definite understanding of emerging nursing trends. More often than not, current research reflects emerging healthcare trends and issues. Nursing students updated with current research can align their efforts with these trends to make their work more timely and impactful. Doing so ensures they can participate in evidence-based conversations and contribute their insights and perspectives to shape the direction of nursing research and practice.

Becoming an Effective Nursing Researcher

As healthcare policies and guidelines continue to shape the future of healthcare delivery, nursing researchers are becoming increasingly important in influencing policies and guidelines. As an effective nursing researcher, you can address healthcare challenges and find innovative solutions to complex issues while advancing the practice.

In conclusion

Nursing research is crucial for healthcare improvement. Nursing students must understand research methodologies, develop critical appraisal skills, and stay updated with current research. This enables evidence-based practice, enhances patient care, and contributes to the advancement of nursing knowledge and healthcare quality, allowing them to evaluate and combine current research effectively.

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