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SPH511 Research Skills Guide: Topic Searching in CINAHL

What is CINAHL?

CINAHL Plus with Full Text is EBSCOhost’s version of CINAHL, the well-known nursing and allied health database. CINAHL stands for Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature.

EBSCOhost’s version has the full-text of many of the articles that are “indexed” in the database.

Why use CINAHL instead of Primo Search?

Primo Search is great for searching across many resources at once, but has limited search functionality compared with CINAHL, and does not necessarily get results that are as relevant.

CINAHL is a health-specific database which offers some powerful search functionality and has a huge range of limiters.

Topic searching in CINAHL

  • When you log in to CINAHL Plus with Full Text, you get the EBSCOhost Advanced Search screen, with CINAHL Plus with Full Text as the selected database :

  • You can use the multiple search boxes to carry out complex searches.
  • Note that Select a Field (optional) means that EBSCOhost will search for your words in the main fields of each record. In a CINAHL search, these will be the title, abstract, and subject headings. This is the default, but it can be changed.
  • Remember, EBSCOhost databases default to keyword searching. This means that that if you type in more than one word, EBSCOhost will insert the AND operator between them. If you wish to search for a phrase, you need to enclose the words in double quotation marks.
  • For example, typing in ... nursing home ... will search for nursing AND home, while typing in ... "nursing home" ... will search or that specific phrase.
  • In EBSCOhost, you can “truncate” a phrase. So typing in "speech patholog*" in the search box will search for "speech pathology" or "speech pathologist" or "speech pathologists".

Example: to search for articles on speech pathology in relation to communication and dementia, we could do this search:

CINAHL search showing keyword search and phrase search, using two lines of search with the AND operator between them.

Note #1: it's not necessary to insert the AND operator between communicat* and dementia. The database will do that for us.

Note #2: we have used the term "speech language pathology" because it's the term used in America. It's also the term used in CINAHL (Subject) Headings.

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