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CINAHL User Guide

User's Guide to CINAHL


CINAHL stands for Cumulated Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature. It indexes and abstracts articles from a large number of nursing, medical, and allied health journals, as well as a variety of other materials, such as health care books, nursing dissertations, standards of practice, conference proceedings and laws. Coverage is from 1982 to the present.

CINAHL is the best database for accessing the scholarly literature in Nursing and Allied Health. CINAHL with Full Text is the world's most comprehensive source of full text for nursing & allied health journals, providing full text for more than 600 journals indexed in CINAHL. Of those, 301 are not found with full text in any version of Academic Search,
Health Source, or Nursing & Allied Health Collection.

Screenshot of CINAHL database


Keyword Searching

On the Advanced Search Screen (the default mode,) enter your search terms in the first Find field. Choose the search field from the optional Select a Field drop-down list (for example, search in only the Subject Terms field of the citation). Repeat steps 1 and 2 for the second set of Find fields as necessary. Select a Boolean operator (AND, OR, NOT) to combine the two Find field entries. You can even enter another Boolean operator, keyword, and search field in the third set of fields. If you need additional rows, click the Add Row link. Up to 12 rows can be displayed. To delete a row, click the Remove Row link.

Depending on your search topic, you may wish to apply Limiters to narrow the scope of your results. If you only want articles that are available either in full text or in Geisel Library's periodicals collection, checkmark the first set of limiters. However, this may exclude the most relevant articles for your particular topic; even if they are unavailable at Geisel Library, you can easily request them via Interlibrary Loan and they will be emailed to you in about a week.

Other useful limiters enable you to restrict your results by language, publication date, publication type, and peer-review status. The CINAHL databases also offer unique limiters that let you characterize the types of studies you're interested in. As illustrated above, you can limit your search to studies dealing with particular Age Groups (e.g. infant, middle-aged adult, all adult), or to specific Publication Types such as practice guidelines, clinical case study, or review. You can limit to Peer Reviewed or Evidence-Based Practice search results by clicking on those limiters.

Subject Searching

Screenshot of CINAHL database


Because a document's Subject Terms reflect its major points of focus, subject searching often yields more relevant results than keyword searching. There are two different approaches to conducting subject searching in these databases. From the Advanced Search screen, click on CINAHL Headings. To identify the defined Subject Term(s) for a particular concept or topic, type a search word or phrase representing that topic into the Browse box and click Browse. This will display a list of Subject Terms near the term you entered. Checkmark any terms of interest and click the Add button to append them to your search, using either the Boolean AND or OR operators to conjoin the subject terms. Finally, click Search to execute the new search.

The second approach to subject searching takes advantage of the Subject Terms that appear on the left of the search results screen (as shown in the diagram below). Click on any of these terms to narrow your results to items that have been assigned that Subject Term. Alternatively, you can re-do your search by typing one or more of these Subject Terms in the search box at top and toggle the Select a Field box to "SU Subjects."

Viewing and Interpreting Results

By default, results are listed in order of their relevance to your search terms. You can use the Sort by drop-down box in the upper right to re-order the results by date, with the most recent items listed first. To read an item's abstract, either hover your mouse over the magnifying glass icon to the right of its title, or simply click on the title itself. When you find a relevant item, examine the Subject Terms that have been assigned to it. You may want to perform "SU Subject" searches on these terms.

Screenshot of CINAHL database


Obtaining the Citation and Full Text

If there is no direct link to the full text of an article, click on the WebBridge icon to determine whether the journal is available at Geisel Library or in full text via another electronic database. If the WebBridge panel does not offer links to full-text resources or the Library Catalog, consider clicking on the Interlibrary Loan link to request a copy of the article from another library. Articles requested via ILL will be delivered to your email inbox within about a week.

In the article record view, click on the envelope icon to email yourself a ready-made citation of the document in the bibliographic style of your choosing (APA, MLA, or Chicago style). On the email screen, under the Include when sending heading, click "Citation Format" and select the desired style. To email multiple citations at once, click the Add to Folder link below each desired item in the search results screen, then click on the Folder View on the right side of the screen. At this point, you will have the option of printing or emailing the citations of all the selected items at once. Click the printer icon to print out a nicely-formatted version of an item's citation and abstract.

For further assistance with using these databases, click the Help link at the upper right corner.

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