Nursing Theory and Theorists

This guide will help students research nursing theory and theorists at the Chamberlain Library


This guide features a collection of sources related to nursing theories and theorists. Here, you will find links to library databases, videos, eBooks, and articles that cover key aspects of nursing theory research.

Finding Original Publications

An original publication of a theory or model is also known as a primary source. If you know the name of a particular primary source, the easiest way to see if the library has it is to do a title search in the Search Everything system on the library homepage. If it is available, then it will be included in the list of search results. You can also search by the theorist's name to find any information published by that theorist.

Most often primary sources will be journal articles or books, but you may find that the theorist used other means to share information about their theory, so you might also search online for additional information. On the Nursing Theorists page of this guide, we provide links to some primary sources by specific theorists.

Note! Not all original nursing theories are available digitally. We try our best to secure as many sources as we can, but some cannot be acquired.

Finding Articles About Theory

You may have to find articles about theory for some of your assignments. Be aware that most articles will address the application of the theory in a specific setting. They will not usually define or describe the theory. With journal articles, the researcher/author usually assumes a basic level of understanding of the topic, and they are usually reporting the findings of a study that they have carried out. Below are some techniques on how to find articles that look at the application of nursing theory.

Search Everything

Start your search from the Search Everything system on the library homepage. Here, you can search for either the name of the theory or the name of the theorist. Some example searches would be:

 "Goal Attainment Theory"
 King, Imogene

This should get you started on your search. Below are some additional places that you can look for additional information. CINAHL is also a great place to research nursing theory because it is the largest nursing and allied health database.

CINAHL Search Using Subject Headings

1. To find subject headings in CINAHL, click on database link above, and select CINAHL Subject Headings in the top navigation menu.

2. In the search box, enter the following search statement.

nursing models, theoretical

3. This will open a list of subject headings. From here, click on the link for Nursing Models, Theoretical.

4. This will open a list of models. Choose the theory/model you are looking for by checking the box next to the theory and selecting the box for Major Concept.

5. Hit Search Database, and you will get articles related to the particular theory that you selected.

Tip! You can also use the CINAHL Subject Headings to search directly for the name of the theorist or the name of the theory using the same techniques. Put the name of theorist or theory in the CINAHL Subject Headings search box and select the result that fits what you are looking for.


Another place that you might want to consider looking is in PubMed. You can either use the general search, or you can do a search in the MeSH database using similar techniques as you use to search in CINAHL. There are help guides on the MeSH homepage for assistance in learning to use that search system.