P>Aim. The purpose of this study was to examine articles in ISI-ranked nursing journals and to analyse the articles and journals, using definitions of international and article content. Background. Growing emphasis on global health includes attention on international nursing literature. Contributions from Latin America and Africa have been reported. Attention to ranked nursing journals to support scholarship in global health is needed. Method. Using an ex post facto design, characteristics of 2827 articles, authors and journals of 32 ranked nursing journals for the year 2005 were analysed between June 2006 and June 2007. Using definitions of international and of article content, research questions were analysed statistically. Findings. (a) 928 (32 center dot 8%) articles were international; (b) 2016 (71 center dot 3%) articles were empirical or scholarly; (c) 826 (89 center dot 3%) articles reflecting international content were scholarly or empirical; (d) among international articles more were empirical (66 center dot 3% vs. 32 center dot 8%; chi 2((1)) = 283 center dot 6, P < 0 center dot 001); (e) among non-international articles more were scholarly (29 center dot 9% vs. 22 center dot 7%; chi 2((1)) = 15 center dot 85, P < 0 center dot 001; 22 center dot 7%); (f) 1004 (78 center dot 0%) articles were international, based on author characteristics; (f) 20 (62 center dot 5%) journals were led by an international editorial team; and (g) international journals had more international articles (3 center dot 6% vs. 29 center dot 2%; chi 2((1)) = 175 center dot 75, P < 0 center dot 001) and higher impact factors than non-international journals (t = -14 center dot 43, P < 0 center dot 001). Conclusion. Articles with empirical content appear more frequently in international journals. Results indicate the need to examine the international relevance of the nursing literature.