Choosing keywords for JAN papers


It is vital that authors choose appropriate keywords for their papers because these facilitate literature searching through electronic databases. For some time, the editorial team has been trying to locate a standardized list of keywords to use for JAN but, despite consulting librarians and database keyword lists, we have not been able to find a satisfactory solution. At present, our guidelines for authors state that up to six keywords should be given for each paper, with the only requirement being that they include ‘nurses’ or ‘nursing’ or an equivalent. Authors have a free choice for the other five keywords. At the copy editing stage, we may make minor changes, for example, ‘literature review’ is always included as a keyword, if appropriate, as this aids locating this type of paper in electronic searches. But JAN editors continue to feel hampered by not having a more structured approach to guide keyword selection.

For this reason, we have now produced a grid which will continue to give authors a wide and flexible choice for their keywords, but within predetermined categories. This grid is now included in the author guidelines at: and is shown below. It consists of six columns with examples of keywords for each heading. However, authors may use an alternative within each category because it is impossible to anticipate all the possibilities. Authors should select one keyword from each column in the grid, and may add one ‘free choice’ of their own if this is needed to describe the content of their paper more precisely. Thus, we will now allow up to seven keywords.

We hope that this new system for choosing keywords will help authors to give appropriate and precise information to potential readers of their papers who are searching on electronic databases. After all, if people cannot locate a paper they cannot read it, use it in clinical practice, or refer to it in their research or teaching. As always, we welcome feedback on this new approach and will be evaluating it ourselves as it becomes adopted.

Possible categories for selecting keywords for papers, with illustrative examples

Professional group or disciplineResearch methodology/ designResearch method/sSettingType of paperDiagnostic/ participant group
NursesQuantitativeObservationAcute care facilityResearch reportRespiratory
NursingQualitativeDocument analysisLong-term facilityConcept analysisDigestive
MidwivesGrounded theoryQuestionnaireMental healthSystematic reviewCardiovascular
MidwiferyPhenomenologyInterviewLearning disabilityIntegrative reviewOrthopaedic
Healthcare professionalsEthnographyFocus groupsAccident and emergencyMethodologyAdults
ExperimentalNarrativeOperating theatresInstrument validationOlder people
etc.Randomized controlled trialDiscourse analysisDay careDiscussionChildren
 Historical analysisCommunityetc.Carers
 Cross-sectionalAction researchPrimary health care Nurse teachers
 Longitudinaletc.Public health Managers
 Retrospective Nursing home Nursing students
 Survey Rural/remote Community population
 Case–controlled study Nurse education etc.
 Uncontrolled study Management  
 etc. etc.