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Learning Activities
Research Software and Tools


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"Increased access to computers and the availability of software
packages in the workplace, schools, and at home now makes research
feasible for nurses in many settings and facilitates the process
from start to finish. Research provides data that allows better
allocation of scarce resources and supports knowledge development,
which in turn enhances the theoretical underpinnings of nursing,

-(Hebda, Czar & Mascara, 1998, p. 271).

Before the advent of personal computers (PCs), undertaking research studies in any discipline, was an extremely time-consuming and challenging task. Mainframe computers, if any, were used for data analysis. Typewriters were used to present finished documents. Everything else, was done by hand. With the development of personal computers with large memory storage, and user friendly software, the research process has become far more manageable for researchers in all fields of study. Both quantitative and qualitative studies are facilitated with various computer applications and programs.

Some examples of computer applications that support nursing research are:

a) Topic identification: through online literature searches, email and discussion groups, and visiting websites.

b) Literature searches: Once a topic is chosen, the literature review can be greatly enhanced from current research available on the Web, in databases, and on CD-ROMs, often with full text retrieval.

c) Resource Files: Historically, index cards and paper were used to keep notes of various research searches and observations. Computers can now be used for these clerical tasks.

d) Data collection tools: can be retrieved through online searches or created using various graph, spreadsheet, word processing and database applications.

e) Proposal preparation: Word processing programs greatly facilitate the editing and writing.

f) Budgets: Both the preparation and management of research budgets are made easier with spreadsheet programs.

g) Data collection: Various programs can be used to sort and actually collect data, including hospital information systems, spreadsheets, databases, and word processing.

h) Data Analysis: Statistical and thematic software can greatly reduce the time and stress of processing both quantitative and qualitative data.

i) Final report: Word processing, charts and tables, and statistical graphs can all be easily and quickly done on a computer.

j) Sharing of results: Current research findings can be shared with the public at large far quicker using the web and other electronic venues. Print reports often take one to five years to be circulated.

Ends in View

This learning activity is intended to give the learner the opportunity to:

1. Appreciate the utility of computers and the Internet for the Nursing Research process.

2. Explore various applications available on the Internet that can be used for distinct aspects of the research process.

3. Gain awareness of the assorted research studies and findings available through online literature searches.

In Preparation


1. Explore: Pat Research (2021). Top 19 Free Qualitative Data Analysis Software in 2021

Online Resources

2. EXPLORE: Sigma Theta Tau Honor Society Nursing Research Resources.

3. EXPLORE: U.S. National Institute of Nursing Research at https://www.ninr.nih.gov/

4. EXPLORE: the Canadian Journal of Nursing Informatics at https://cjni.net/journal/

5. EXPLORE: Trochim, W. Research Methods Knowledge Base Conjoint.ly.

Research on Informatics

6. BROWSE: Kaminski, J. (2006). A Revealing of Nursing Informatics: Exploring the Field.... University of British Columbia, Comprehensive Examination.

7. READ: Ladwell, E., Andrusyszyn, M., & Iwasiw, C. (2006). Nursing students' empowerment in distance education: testing Kanter's theory. Journal of Distance Education, 21(2), 778-95.

8. BROWSE: special issue on Using Technology in the Qualitative Research Process in Qualitative Social Research, 3(2), May.

9. READ: Kling, R. (2000). Social informatics: A new perspective on social research about information and communication technologies. Prometheus, 18 (3), 245-264.

In Practice

1. Explore the following case studies:

a) You are required to initiate a Community development project as part of your course work. The agency you have chosen to work with targets a select group of the local community population. This group has expressed frustration in how they are perceived by the rest of the community, and the fact that they have no way to share their insights and beliefs with others. How could you use a computer to help these group members gain support and express their voice within the community? What kind of research study could be initiated to assist this group in establishing a visible community identity?

b) You are a student on a busy medical-surgical ward in a local agency. You have noticed that patients who bring their own music into the hospital, and are allowed to listen to it, seem to relax more easily and fall asleep before their surgery. Describe how you might use computer applications to explore the relationship between music and preoperative sleep and to write a proposal to address this research topic.

2. As you work on your assignments for this course, i.e. your research proposal, research critiques and assisting with a faculty research project, take note of how valuable different research programs and resources are to your work.

3. Make a table or chart on a computer, and itemize all the different computer programs and applications that you have used as you complete each assignment.

In Reflection

1. Reflect on how computer advances will help you in your nursing career in the future.

Consider the following emerging and predicted technologies:

a) Voice activated recording of data and information.
b) Video-picture email programs.
c) Virtual reality and 3D website materials.
d) Multimedia patient education materials.
e) Downloadable research databases for searching directly from your own hard drive.


Hebda, T., Czar, P. & Mascara, C. (1998). Handbook of informatics for nurses and health care professionals. Menlo Park, CA: Addison-Wesley.

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Nursing Informatics Integration for the BSN and BSN-AE Nursing Programs at Kwantlen Polytechnic University
Design & Content by June Kaminski, RN MSN PhD(c) - 1999 - 2021
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