- BACKGROUND: The field of knowledge utilization has been hampered by several issues including: the synonymous use of multiple terms with little attempt at definition precision; an overexamination of knowledge utilization as product, rather than a process; and a lack of progress to cross disciplinary boundaries to advance knowledge development. In order to address the challenges and current knowledge gaps in the knowledge utilization field in nursing, a comprehensive picture of the current state of the field is required. METHODS: Bibliometric analyses were used to map knowledge utilization literature in nursing as an international field of study, and to identify the structure of its scientific community. FINDINGS: Analyses of bibliographic data for 433 articles from the period 1945-2004 demonstrated three trends: (1) there has been significant recent growth and interest in this field, (2) the structure of the scientific knowledge utilization community is evolving, and (3) the Web of Science does not index the majority of journals where this literature is published. CONCLUSIONS: In order to enhance the accessibility and profile of this literature, and nursing's scientific literature at large, we encourage the International Academy of Nursing Editors to work collaboratively to increase the number of journals indexed in the Web of Science.