Brandel Library

NURS 2100: Survey of Professional Nursing

Exploratory Paper Resources

Exploratory Paper

The objective of the Exploratory Paper is to explore an aspect of nursing through formal writing and research.

Step 1: Choose a topic you are interested in. Don't make it too broad or too narrow. If you are struggling to narrow your topic, try doing some background research first. You can also create a mind map to brainstorm ideas!
Step 2: Conduct a literature search.  Explore the research that is written about your topic.
Step 3: Gather relevant sources.


  • You will need a least 5 scholarly sources.
  • One source may be a non-nursing journal.
  • The other 4 sources must be from a peer-reviewed nursing journal.
  • Do not use foreign journals.

Where can I find scholarly/peer-reviewed articles?

The library subscribes to very few journals in print.  Most scholarly journals can be accessed through online article databases. Using an article database allows you to search hundreds of different journals at once.

Search Strategy

Just as you should plan your essay before starting to write, you should also plan your search strategy before searching for relevant articles.

Step 1: State your topic.  You can write your topic as a sentence, short paragraph, or question.

Step 2: Identify your Keywords.   Circle, highlight or underline the keywords and phrases that are relevant to your topic.

Step 3:  Identify synonyms and alternative keywords.

Step 4:  Connect your keywords/phrases. Use the words AND/OR to connect your keywords and phrases.

Scholarly vs. Popular

This video explains the differences between scholarly, popular, and trade publications.

Popular vs. Scholarly

Scholarly journal articles:

  • written by experts in the field
  • aimed at an informed reader
  • followed by a bibliography 
  • include the credentials of the author(s) 
  • ExampleThe American Journal of Nursing

Popular magazine articles:

  • written by staff reporters 
  • aimed at the general public
  • published more frequently (weekly or monthly) 
  • Example: Newsweek