Cotton Coslett, MLIS
Online Learning Librarian
California State University, Fullerton
The Sigma Repository (formerly the Virginia Henderson Global Nursing e-repository) is an open, digital collection that features full-text nursing research, educational, and evidence-based practice materials in a variety of formats and item types.
This service includes a broad variety of full-text nursing materials covering a variety of subjects, from conference posters to academic journal articles. This service is also used as the repository for the Sigma Theta Tau Honor Society of Nursing and includes slides and/or video of presentations given at past research events, congresses, and biennial conventions. The Sigma Repository is intended for use by anyone in the nursing field, but particularly by nursing students. Each item in the repository is authored or coauthored by a nurse or nursing student and can be directly accessed on the Sigma site. While these materials might be housed in additional places, this repository offers a unique window into nursing research that can be accessed and used freely.
The repository includes over 6,000 presentations and 4,000 posters, as well as a large number of dissertations, theses, and DNP Capstone projects. Also included are articles, book chapters, best practice guidelines, and quality improvement papers. The content is also arranged into different “communities” such as “Theses and Dissertations,” “Independent Submissions,” “Open Dissemination Materials,” “Previously Published Materials,” and “Sigma Theta Tau International,” which houses Sigma’s materials. Each of these communities is further broken down into specific collections and sub-communities.
While the repository does not peer review submissions prior to posting, any type of review that an item has already been subjected to is noted on the item’s record. Submissions made to topical collections in the repository’s Independent Submissions community undergo peer review.
This resource appears particularly useful to those in the field with less experience conducting research or presenting their findings. By providing existing research, it gives nursing students or recent graduates the opportunity to access examples of posters, papers, and presentations that they can use to guide their own work.
The Sigma Repository offers a robust set of search functions, allowing users to search not only the typical metadata found on most electronic repositories (publication date, author, title, format, etc.), but also in less common (but equally effective) ways, such as level of evidence, research methodology, and the type of review that items have undergone. The repository also aligns its contents with the subject headings found in CINAHL, making it easier to use in tandem with one of the most widely used nursing databases. An advanced search feature allows users to conduct compound searches using many limiters at once. Included are several helpful reference guides and finding aids for using the repository.
Each item record features the complete item, as well as format and review information, subject headings (for both MeSH and CINAHL), and copyright information. Also featured is a citation generator for each item. One criticism is that the citation generator is often inaccurate, but this is the case with nearly all citation generators and will likely improve in time.
This repository is well maintained and archived, as well as easy to navigate. The only thing that would improve it would be greater participation from authors and researchers to submit their own materials (when able).
The Sigma Repository does not have a business model, and there is no pricing or subscriptions. As an open-access resource, it is freely accessible to anyone with an internet connection. In addition to being free to access, it is also free to submit, making it an ideal place for nurses and nursing students (graduate or undergraduate), to submit their own materials in order to disseminate their research and to house it for future use while also retaining copyright. The repository records visitor data, including each visitor location and the frequency of views, enabling easy access to data usage statistics.
This resource is best suited for colleges and universities with nursing programs, as well as any healthcare facilities that include nursing students and recently graduated nurses.
This resource does not include the mass of research articles that most electronic library databases feature. In fact, it is composed mostly of a combination of conference proceedings and non-peer-reviewed research papers that many students actively avoid. However, these materials have incredible merit by providing examples of presentations, posters, and dissertations that many readers will find themselves creating. Furthermore, it familiarizes users with the submission process and provides an outlet to showcase any material that they choose to upload.
The Sigma Repository is an excellent collection of current and jargon-free materials designed to inform nursing professionals, to showcase the work of nurses, and to empower those in the field who may be new to presenting their findings or searching for existing materials. It features a broad variety of well categorized materials that can easily be browsed, accessed, and shared. While it might not serve as a standalone library database, I strongly recommend including this repository in the resources shared with student researchers and would-be authors.