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HIP202 Research Skills Guide: Introduction to CINAHL


This guide concentrates on CINAHL because it's probably the best known database for Allied Health. CINAHL stands for Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature

CINAHL Plus with Full Text is so named because, in addition to the index (records and abstracts of articles), you get many of the journals and articles in full-text, within the database itself. There is the full-text of more than 770 journals.

CINAHL Plus with Full Text is also available as part of a package of health-related EBSCOhost databases, known as EBSCOhost (Health). There are some advantages in searching CINAHL on its own, which you lose by searching it with other databases. On the other hand, the EBSCOhost (Health) package does give you access to extra material.

Pros and Cons: Advantages of using CINAHL

Why use CINAHL and not Primo Search or Google Scholar?

Primo Search and Google Scholar are ok up to a point, and it’s true that they search across a huge range of resources, but there are advantages in using CINAHL Plus with Full Text, or the EBSCOhost (Health) package, instead:

  • CINAHL Plus with Full Text is a targeted resource, with specific sources of scholarly material in Nursing and Allied Health. So your search results are more likely to be relevant.
  • The database has tools and features that are specific to the health sciences. For example, CINAHL Plus with Full Text offers a sophisticated health and medical thesaurus – a system of subject headings known as CINAHL Headings – and has search limiters that are specific to health and medicine.
  • The searching functionality and the tools and features are much more sophisticated and advanced. These include the Suggest Subject Terms feature, proximity searching, and the use of folders and Search History.
  • Your subject search in CINAHL will probably return more and better results than the same subject search in Primo Search, while Google Scholar does not offer subject searching.
  • Links to full-text are prominent and direct. Where the full-text is not held, you can use the Find it at CSU links to search for the full item elsewhere.
  • One of CSU's Graduate Learning Outcomes is that graduates should be able to “demonstrate capability as inquirers to locate, evaluate, manage, and use information and research ….” We suggest that as Allied Health students and, eventually, graduates, you should be familiar with an important research database such as CINAHL Plus with Full Text.

Pros and Cons: Disadvantages of using CINAHL

  • There really aren't any, except that it's just a single database, and you might miss material that is available elsewhere. This can be offset, as noted above, by going to the EBSCOhost (Health) package of databases.
  • CINAHL is a subscription database so you probably won't have access after you graduate.