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Large Data Sets in Nursing Research- RUL

introduction to existing data set sources that might be used for secondary analysis by nurse researchers

Finding articles using large data sets

            Reading articles written by researchers using the data set you plan to use can be very helpful in identifying the range of research questions the data can support and any concerns about the data that the authors have experienced.   You can also search the indexes by subject or keyword to discover what data sets researchers in your area of interest have been using

 When you know the data set you want to use…

            The survey and data set descriptions often include a list of studies resulting from the data set’s use.  In some cases, the number of studies is so large that a link has been established to a PubMed search.  If you wish to do your searching through one of the University Libraries databases such as CINAHL, PsycINFO, Medline or HealthStar, the best approach is to use the title of the survey in quotation marks.

When you want to find a data set to use…

            Health sciences related indexes have a mixed approach toward secondary analysis and the use of data sets.  Three databases have a subject heading to group articles using secondary analysis although relying on this alone will not lead to conclusive search results.


            CINAHL uses the subject heading, secondary analysis, which retrieves over 12,500 citations (9/25/2013).  You can add your concepts to narrow the results.  As part of the researcher’s methodology, the data set should be mentioned in the abstract.


            PsycINFO does not offer the searcher any subject headings related to secondary analysis.  Using “secondary analysis” as a keyword phrase may lead to the retrieval of some appropriate citations when you include it in a search with your concepts.  Authors usually mention secondary analysis in their abstracts as part of the methodology.

HealthStar and Medline

            Both databases rely on the Medical Subject Headings to index articles.  There is one subject heading, “Databases, Factual/Statistics and Numerical Data,” which should yield positive search results when you add your concepts as keywords.  The phrases, “secondary analysis” and “large data sets,” do not seem to be used, either by the indexers or the authors.


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