Information Resources: Using E-Journals: Desktop Nuts and Bolts

Key Words: Electronic publications, electronic publishing, nursing literature

This issue of OJIN is dedicated to electronic scholarly publishing. The changes created by this mode of publishing affect all parties: authors, editors, publishers, readers, and librarians. For librarians, such as myself, our particular interest is in ensuring access and usability for our clientele and in preserving the scholarly record for future generations.

This column will address the basics of e-journals and their accessibility, as well as provide some examples.

What is an e-journal?

In truth, "e-journals" is not used very precisely as a label. There is lack of clarity about both the "electronic" and "journal" qualifiers. It makes sense to deal with "journal" first. The following is the hierarchy for classifying publications used by librarians to differentiate the various types.

  • Serials: Publications issued in parts indefinitely over time.
  • Periodicals: Serial publications issued at regular intervals less than a year.
    • Magazines: Periodicals containing a collection of articles, stories, pictures, or other features.
    • Journals: Periodicals offering articles on a particular topic for a professional or scholarly audience.
    • Scholarly journals: Journals with research or scholarly content that has been screened through a peer-review process.

Therefore, not all regularly issued publications are journals, nor are all journals "scholarly." This is true in both the print and electronic worlds.

With this in mind, then, what constitutes an electronic journal? Obviously, the mode of delivery must be electronic, but the extent of what is delivered electronically varies. In its purest form, an e-journal is "an edited package of articles that is distributed to most of its subscribers in electronic form" (Kling & Covi, 1995). The group of journals whose primary distribution is electronic is very small, although growing across all disciplines. Initially, these journals were developed independently by individuals without benefit of subsidy from institutions or professional associations and usually offered without cost to the user (Fisher, 1996). This lack of production support resulted in time in the cessation of some titles.

A more prevalent development at present is the dual form of access provided by many conventional publishers, whose business is founded on print publication. Now, and often for an added cost, they are also providing access to an electronic archive of their print titles. So it is increasingly possible, depending on your personal or library subscription, to access an electronic equivalent of a print journal. Another variation by some publishers is the provision of a limited amount of content freely available online, which may be no more than table of contents and abstracts. This may be accompanied by a document delivery service by which it is possible to purchase an individual article.

Where do "e-zines" fit in this discussion? As with print magazines, e-zines offer content for special interest groups. "E-zine" has been defined as "a regular publication on some particular topic distributed in digital form….often distributed for free by enthusiasts" (Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, 1999). To the extent the target audience is nurses, the distinction between an e-zine and generic e-journal may be fuzzy indeed. If the publication primarily contains information of particular current interest, it would seem to qualify as an e-zine. This could include news items, career information, e-commerce offerings, chat, and an abundance of advertising. An e-journal that is more than an e-zine, but not a scholarly journal, would be characterized by a significant amount of practice-oriented and clinically-based information with authors and their institutional affiliation given.

E-Journal Accessibility

As suggested, some e-journals are freely accessible on the Web. This is most commonly the case for those titles that have been created independent of a print counterpart. Publishers of print journals usually limit free, online access to the tables of contents and abstracts of articles. While this falls short of desktop access to the full-text of articles, it does provide the convenience of browsing published issues to identify items of interest.

It is possible to locate specific journals that are on the Web with full-text or with table of contents by using a general search engine (such as InfoSeek or AltaVista) and searching by specific title. Various Web directories for nursing provide listings of e-journals as well. Again, caution should be exercised in using these, as the lists often contain an unidentified mix of those that are and are not peer-reviewed. Examples of Web directories useful for this purpose include: University of Texas School of Nursing at Galveston Academic Journal Directory (, CINAHLSources (, HealthWeb-Nursing ( under "Resources," and a listing of free-to-all e-journals in general medicine and health from the Hardin Library (

Academic and health sciences libraries provide a major means of access for those e-journals that are available by subscription only. Libraries may subscribe to individual titles from a publisher or to the publisher’s entire title list. Many libraries use an intermediary "aggregator" to subscribe to a disciplinary set of journals from several publishing houses. Library subscriptions of journals with full-text, electronic access are often identified--and linked--from the library’s online catalog. Provision may be made to allow offsite access for valid users of that institution. Local practices vary.

Another major developing pathway for accessing scholarly journals is the set of linkages provided through major indexing services. CINAHL is unique in providing within its database full-text access to articles in selected state nursing journals, in addition to full-text of some patient education material. CINAHL users are able to search for this full-text material by specific journal titles if known or by limiting searches with the "CINAHL full-text" limit. A more common approach is for database vendors to provide links between their index entries for articles and the article full-text for journals subscribed to by a given library. This capability is made available from vendors such as OVID, SilverPlatter, and ISI (Institute for Scientific Information).

Of special note is PubMed, the publicly accessible version of MEDLINE ( PubMed provides links between index entries and freely available content. The link is typically to the abstract available at the publisher’s site, although it may sometimes be to the actual full-text. Most full-text links at publisher sites, however, will require a subscription or other fee to access. A complete listing of journals with links from PubMed to publisher Web sites is provided at

E-Journal Formats

E-journal full-text will generally be of two types: HTML or PDF.

HTML (hypertext markup language) is the coding used to create Web pages that can be displayed by Web browsers (such as Netscape or Internet Explorer). This column, for example, appears on your monitor as text, but has actually been prepared as an HTML document. This type of document can be used in several ways:

  • Print: simply use the PRINT function on your browser.
  • "Cut and paste," as you would any other text in the Windows environment: to "cut," highlight the desired text using your mouse and then hold down the CTRL key followed by the C key (C is for "copy"). This places the desired text on the invisible clipboard on your PC. You can then open a new word processing file and "paste" this text into that file to save for later use. To "paste," hold down the CTRL key followed by the V key.
  • "Save As" option: save the page to disk.
  • E-mail: possible only if your browser is configured to allow you to send e-mail.

PDF (portable document file) is a format that allows a user to view a document in its original format without requiring that the user have the originating software application. Documents viewed in this format provide an image view that is the same as viewing a published print equivalent. Therefore, this format is not only pleasing to the eye, but also nicely accommodates graphical material such as article tables and figures. Because this is an image format, however, it is not possible to cut and paste as you can with a text document.

In order to display or print a PDF file through your browser, it is necessary that it have the appropriate "plug-in." Plug-ins are specialized applications which enable a particular type of software file (in this case a PDF) to be viewable inside the browser window. To read a PDF file, it is necessary to have the Adobe Acrobat Reader plug-in. If you have a fairly recent personal computer that came with a Web browser already installed, it is likely that you have a basic set of plug-ins already in place and that this includes the Adobe Acrobat Reader plug-in. If this is not already installed on your personal computer, it can be obtained for free through a three-step download process from the Adobe Web site. The download with instructions is available at:

When full-text is being made available on the Web as a PDF, you will be offered a Web link (URL) to the file. Click on this link, and you will be given the choice to open the file or save it to disk. Again, this works only IF the Adobe Acrobat Reader plug-in is installed.

  • Open: allows you to view the article on the monitor and to print through your browser.
  • Save: allows you to save the article to a disk for later use.

IF, when you clicked on the link to the PDF file, you got a browser message indicating that the needed viewer was not available, you need to download and install the Adobe Acrobat Reader as described above. Further information on "how-to" get and install needed plug-ins is available from the Learn the Net site (

To test whether your browser has the Adobe Acrobat Reader plug-in, the following example is given. This PDF is a form designed to be used in the evaluation of Web resources, using the criteria put forward in "Whom do you trust?" (Schloman, 1999). Click on the link below to see if the PDF document appears. Then to return to this column, use your browser back button.

Sample URL for Adobe Acrobat Reader test:

E-Zines and E-Journals in Nursing

The following is not a complete listing. Included are those periodicals which are online only (subscription or non-subscription) or which have a print counterpart but provide some freely accessible, full-text content online. Not included are examples from major commercial publishers.



Australian Electronic Journal of Nursing Education

A biannual publication of the School of Nursing and Health Care Practices, Southern Cross University, in association with the Australian College of Holistic Nurses Inc. Identifies which papers are refereed, non-refereed, or student perspectives. Indexed by CINAHL.


"Professional magazine for nursing students."

Official journal of the National Student Nurses Association. Print counterpart; selected articles from current and past issues are available in full-text online. Indexed by CINAHL

Internet Journal of Advanced Nursing Practice

Published by Internet Scientific Publications LLC.

Peer-reviewed. First published: October 1996.

Journal of Undergraduate Nursing Scholarship

" online publication that provides an opportunity for students in baccalaureate nursing programs to publish outstanding papers." Published by the University of Arizona College of Nursing. First issue in Fall 1999.

NEN - Nurses Empowering Nurses

"... aimed at raising the consciousness of registered professional nurses and their allied a way that the power which is inherent in the nursing profession can be best put to use to benefit health care in all its scope." Pays for articles. Access by subscription.

Nightingale Network

Newsletter Online

"To make the face of nursing seen and the voice of nursing heard!" Peer-reviewed newsletter; calls itself an e-zine.

Nurse Week/Health Week

Print counterparts are NurseWeek (for California nurses) and HealthWeek (Texas nurses and allied health professionals. Selected articles from current and past issues are available in full-text online. Newsletter

"The Marketplace for the nursing profession." Provided by VerticalNet, Inc. Includes items of professional interest, as well as clinical and product information. Newsletter available for e-mail delivery.


Nursing e-mail newsletter published by Worldwide Nurse. Available via e-mail. "Articles submitted by Nurse-zine subscribers."

Nursing Research Methods

"... an electronic journal which focuses on peer-reviewed articles on all aspects of nursing research methods."

Sponsored by the Institute for Nursing Research at the University of Cincinnati.

Nursing Standard Online

Includes selected articles from the current week’s issue of Nursing Standard. Archive includes main research article from each weekly issue since 1996. Other features include career information and reader opinion articles. Published by RCN (Royal College of Nursing) Publishing Company. Print indexed by CINAHL.

Online Journal of Clinical Innovations (OJCI)

"… a new electronic journal dedicated to harvesting new knowledge to be transformed into practice, and making sources of clinical innovation – new solutions or practices that solve problems – accessible to clinicians in varied roles and diverse settings." Peer-reviewed. Published by CINAHL, available by subscription or purchase of individual articles. Indexed by CINAHL.

Online Journal of Issues in Nursing (OJIN)

"The intent of this journal is to present different views on topics that affect nursing research, education, and practice, thus enabling readers to understand the full complexity of an issue." Published by Kent State University College of Nursing and hosted by American Nurses’ Association NursingWorld site. Register for free online subscription. Peer-reviewed. Indexed by CINAHL, MEDLINE.

Online Journal of Knowledge Synthesis for Nursing

"… publishes critical reviews of research literature to guide nursing practice and research." Published by Sigma Theta Tau International since 1993. Available through subscription or through purchase of individual articles. Peer-reviewed. Indexed by CINAHL.

On-line Journal of Nursing Informatics (OJNI)

"... committed to enhancing nursing knowledge on nursing informatics for nurses working in diverse settings." Register for free online subscription. Peer-reviewed. Indexed by CINAHL.


"RNWeb is an online community for nurses featuring articles and resources from RN magazine. Focuses on clinical, professional, legal, and drug information with job and conference listings. Continuing education credits available." Articles from RN can be purchased.


The developments to date in electronic publishing have all occurred within the past decade. We can expect that more significant changes are yet ahead. The economic realities of the existing publishing marketplace, coupled with a more ubiquitous and robust networked environment, are bound to produce new models for scholarly communication that build upon these examples we now have.


Barbara F. Schloman, PhD, AHIP
Director, Library Information Services
Libraries & Media Services
Kent State University
Kent, OH 44242
Email Address:


Fisher, J. (1996). Traditional publishers and electronic journals. In R. Peek & G. Newby (Eds.), Scholarly publishing: The electronic frontier (pp.231-242), Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Free On-line Dictionary of Computing. (1999). Retrieved October 30, 1999 from the World Wide Web:

Kling, R., & Covi, L. (1995). Electronic journals and legitimate media in the systems of scholarly communication. The Information Society, 11(4), 261-271.

Schloman, B. F. (Jan. 28, 1999). Whom do you trust? Evaluating Internet health resources. Online Journal of Issues in Nursing. Retrieved October 30, 1999 from the World Wide Web:

Disclaimer: Mention of a Web site does not imply endorsement by the author, OJIN, or NursingWorld.

Citation: Schloman, B. (April 14, 2000). Information Resources Column: Using E-Journals: Desktop Nuts and Bolts. Online Journal of Issues in Nursing.