Skip to Main Content

NURS 6320 - Theoretical Foundations: Search for Evidence

Start Here

This guide is designed specifically for NURS6320 to assist you in learning about Theoretical Foundations.

In this course students explore and consider theories from nursing and related disciplines. Emphasis is placed on the role of theory to guide practice and care improvement.  This course is a foundation for the advanced practice nurse to choose and use theories. 

If you need help or have questions contact your liaison librarian, Matt Hayward.

Learn about Searching for Evidence

Primary vs. Secondary

In a nutshell, primary sources are original works. Secondary sources synthesize or utilize primary sources.

Primary Sources

Primary sources are the foundation of original research. They allow you to:

  • Make new discoveries
  • Provide credible evidence for your arguments
  • Give authoritative information about your topic
  • If you don’t use any primary sources, your research may be considered unoriginal or unreliable.

Secondary Sources

Secondary sources are good for gaining a full overview of your topic and understanding how other researchers have approached it. They often synthesize a large number of primary sources that would be difficult and time-consuming to gather by yourself. They allow you to:

  • Gain background information on the topic
  • Support or contrast your arguments with other researchers’ ideas
  • Gather information from primary sources that you can’t access directly (e.g. private letters or physical documents located elsewhere)

Humanities vs. Sciences

Basic Differences

  Humanities Sciences
Primary Source
  • Original, first-hand account of an event or time period
  • Usually written or made during or close to the event or time period
  • Original, creative writing or works of art
  • Factual, not interpretive
  • Report of scientific discoveries
  • Results of experiments
  • Results of clinical trials
  • Social and political science research results
  • Factual, not interpretive
Secondary Source
  • Analyzes and interprets primary sources
  • Second-hand account of an historical event
  • Interprets creative work
  • Analyzes and interprets research results
  • Analyzes and interprets scientific discoveries



  • Summarizes secondary sources
  • Provides topic overviews
  • Provides topic overviews or summaries


A more detailed breakdown of the differences.

  Humanities Sciences
Primary Sources
  • Diaries, journals, and letters
  • Newspaper and magazine articles (factual accounts)
  • Government records (census, marriage, military)
  • Photographs, maps, postcards, posters
  • Recorded or transcribed speeches
  • Interviews with participants or witnesses (e.g., The Civil Right Movement)
  • Interviews with people who lived during a particular time (e.g., genocide in Rwanda)
  • Songs, Plays, novels, stories
  • Paintings, drawings, and sculptures
  • Published results of research studies
  • Published results of scientific experiments
  • Published results of clinical trials
  • Proceedings of conferences and meetings
Secondary Sources
  • Biographies
  • Histories
  • Literary Criticism
  • Book, Art, and Theater Reviews
  • Newspaper articles that interpret
  • Publications about the significance of research or experiments
  • Analysis of a clinical trial
  • Review of the results of several experiments or trials



  • Encyclopedias
  • Reference books
  • Review articles
  • Textbooks
  • Encyclopedias
  • Review articles
  • Textbooks

Above reused with permission from BMCC Library.

Learn More about Sources

Apply Your Knowledge

Planning your search

Searching the Literature