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HIP202 Research Skills Guide: Searching Using Different Fields

Searching by Subject

In Searching in CINAHL, the searching we did was general searching, across all the main fields of the record. You can get better results if you search for articles where your search terms appear in a Subject Heading, also known as a CINAHL Heading.
First, let’s look at an article record in CINAHL.

The screen-shot below shows the full record of a journal article. (We can get this by clicking on the title link in a brief record.) Note that Major Subjects and Minor Subjects have been assigned to this article. This means that someone has read the article and described its content using those subject headings. The subject headings come from an official and authorised list, known as CINAHL Headings :

CINAHL record showing Major and Minor subject headings

In many cases, you can make your searching better by searching for articles where your search terms appear in or as a Subject Heading.

Now, let’s go back to our search for occupational therapy or physiotherapy in relation to cerebral palsy. In the screen below, we have searched for these terms without specifying the field to be searched, and received our results list.

 In the left panel, there are ways that we can refine the results. Notice that the database recommends specific Subject Headings by which we can refine the results. (We need to click on the link for Subject: Major Heading to see these options.)

CINAHL results list showing the refiner for Subject Headings expanded to show suggested subect headings

Rather than tick the box for one of these subject headings, to limit the search we have just done, it’s better to do a whole new search for our terms as part of subject headings.

Notice that the subject heading that covers Physiotherapy is actually Physical Therapy. And we can also see that there are subject headings for Occupational Therapy and for Cerebral Palsy.

Back in the search boxes, we can “force” a subject search, by changing Select a Field (optional) to MW Word in Subject Heading. Our terms will be searched for only in the Subject Heading field(s).

So the new search would be:

CINAHL search screen showing the search for occupational therapy OR physical therapy AND cerebral palsy as subject headings

Other Fields

In CINAHL, you can also choose to search in other fields, by selecting them from the drop-down menu at Select a Field (optional):

  • TI Title. Another way of finding articles that are likely to be relevant to your topic.
  • AU Author. Use this to search for articles by an author.
  • SO Publication. Use this to search for articles from a particular journal.

Try It Now

Go to CINAHL Plus with Full Text.

Search for the phrase "home-based rehabilitation".

  • How many results do you get?

Have a look at the suggested subject-headings.

  • What is the closest matching subject-heading?

Do a new search for this subject-heading phrase, and make it a subject search (i.e. enter the new search term and change Select a field (optional) to MW Word in Subject Heading.)

  • How many results do you now get?

Click on the title of one of the results to check the full record and confirm that the article record includes this subject heading. (It will be in either the Major Subjects field or the Minor Subjects field.)