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Finding Information for Speech Pathology: Searching Using CINAHL Headings

A Library Guide to help with developing research projects in speech pathology (SPH516, SPH526, & SPH423)

Using CINAHL Headings

In CINAHL Plus with Full Text, you can search or browse the CINAHL Headings, or you can get the database to "suggest subject terms".

  • To search or browse CINAHL Headings, click on the link and follow the prompts, OR
  • To match your topic or idea to subject terms, enter your topic/idea/concept in the first search box, tick the box for Suggest subject terms, and click on Search.


Let's use "stuttering" as an example. If you search the CINAHL Headings for items that contain "stuttering", or if you ask the database to suggest subject terms for "stuttering", you get this screen:

CINAHL screen showing that the term stuttering matches to the CINAHL Heading Fluency Disorders

Clearly, the suggested CINAHL Heading (subject term) for stuttering is Fluency Disorders.

From here, there are a number of things you can choose to do......

  • If you tick the box for Fluency Disorders, you are presented with a list of subheadings. The default is to Include all Subheadings, but you can narrow your choice to one or more. If you choose more than one subheading, the database will combine these with the OR operator. The idea is to work across the screen from left to right. Your selection(s) appear in the Search Term box, and you click on Search Database to actually search for articles.

Note that you are given the option to search for your original terms as a keyword. If you choose the original term (stuttering) as well as the suggested CINAHL Heading (Fluency Disorders), the search will combine these with the OR operator.

CINAHL screen showing that, if you select a box to the left of a CINAHL Headings, you are presented with the subheadings

  • If, rather than tick the box for Fluency Disorders, you click on the subject heading, you are taken into the tree view of the subject headings - that is, the subject heading hierarchy. This can be a help because you can see broader and narrower terms, and you might choose to use these as alternative search terms. At this screen, you can proceed to search for one or a combination of subject headings.
  • You can also:

- tick the Explode box to select, and search for, not only that subject heading but also any narrower terms that appear beneath it in the hierarchy. This is a way of broadening your search.The plus sign against a subject heading indicates that there are narrower terms. In this case, there are no terms that are narrower than Fluency Disorders. But ... the broader term is Aphasia. If you tick the Explode box for Aphasia, you will get results for that subject heading, plus all the subject headings that appear beneath it in the subject tree.

- tick the Major Concept box to search only for articles where that subject heading appears as a Major Subject Heading. This is a way of narrowing your search to return only articles where that topic is the main focus of the article.

CINAHL screen showing the place of Fliuency Disorders in the subject tree and the options to select Explode or Major Concept

Once again you work from left to right, with your selection(s) appearing in the Search Term box, and you finish the process by clicking on Search Database.

For more assistance with this, see the More Help box, at right.

The two ways to use CINAHL Headings

CINAHL Headings - more help

For more assistance with this functionality in CINAHL Plus with Full Text, please see EBSCOhost's 3.33 min video tutorial on Using the CINAHL/MeSH Headings Feature in EBSCOhost.

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