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MID441 Research Skills Guide: Searching in a database - CINAHL Plus With Full Text

CINAHL Plus with Full Text - Keyword searching

CINAHL stands for Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature and it will be an invaluable source for finding the most relevant articles for your midwifery assessment tasks.  It's available in the EBSCOhost platform.

When you go to CINAHL Plus with Full Text, you will see the EBSCOhost advanced search screen. Let's say you are trying to find information on  communication in inter-professional health care teams.  You might enter the search terms as below. When you click on Search, the results display as brief records below the search boxes:

Many of the results in CINAHL will be available in full-text and you will see the link to a pdf or other full text link below the description of the article (as above).

Some of the results won't have the full-text attached, but you can just click on the Find it at CSU link, which will take you to the article record in Primo Search. You will most likely be able to link directly to the full text from there.

CINAHL result where there is no ful-text attachedFor example, here's a result that is NOT available in full-text from CINAHL:



Article record in the Academic Expanded ASAP database, with link to full-textAfter clicking on the Find it at CSU link, we are in the article's Primo Search record. We can now easily access the full text in another of the Library's databases (in this case, Expanded Academic ASAP). 


CINAHL Plus with Full Text - Using Subject Headings

Once you've familiarised yourself with using CINAHL, you might find that using the Subject Headings feature gives you even better results. Every article as it is indexed in the database is assigned a number of subject headings from a defined Thesaurus of terms. Searching these terms saves you from having to come up with all the possible synonyms for different concepts in your search, where you could miss something important.

Let's assume you want to know what is the optimum nursing care of someone with Parkinsons Disease. 

First, break up your question into concepts: Nursing Care and Parkinsons Disease 

In the CINAHL database, type Nursing Care into the search box, and tick the Suggest Subject Terms box above that.

Nursing care typed into first search box on CINAHL search page

Now press Search, and you will be taken to the CINAHL Subject Headings page:

Cinahl subject headings list with Nursing Care and Explode ticked


In this case you can see that the term you chose to search for maps exactly to the CINAHL subject heading, Nursing Care. Tick the box next to that (or you have other choices listed if you prefer). You now have a couple of tick-box options:

  • Explode - this expands your search to include all the more narrow terms as well as this one. Here it would include all specific types of nursing care.
  • Major Concept - this narrows your search to only articles where that term is considered a major topic.
  • Subheadings - A good rule of thumb here is to start your search fairly broadly and not use those subheadings unless they happen to be exactly what you're looking for. You can always come back!

Here we have chosen to explode the subject heading and choose no sub-headings. Now press Search on the right.

You will find that there are hundreds of thousands of results, because we've found every article indexed in CINAHL about nursing care. Not surprising really as it's primarily a nursing database!

HINT: Always clear the search terms already in the first search box before looking for a new term. Once you start combining terms it will be messy if you forget to do this. Another handy tip is to press Search History under the three search boxes and you can follow your progress.

Now to start searching for your second concept. Tick Suggest Subject Terms, and type Parkinsons Disease into the search box and click Search:

Cinahl subject headings with Parkinson Disease ticked and major concept ticked

Now you can start to see how useful it is to use subject headings. If we had been using keywords, we would have had to search for Parkinson OR Parkinsons OR Parkinson's (or you could have searched Parkinson*). Now we know that all the articles about this disease are indexed under this one term. Note that this time Explode is greyed out, and that's because there are no more narrow terms for this. We've decided to make this a Major Concept, because we really want the articles to be primarily about this disease, and not just mentioned.  If you need a definition of any of the subject headings, click on the little yellow note next to the Major Concept box for a description. Now press Search.

It's time to combine our concepts. Scroll down under the search boxes to your search history, tick both terms and click Search with AND (remember, you use AND when seeing where different concepts overlap):

Search history with both boxes ticked, indicating search with AND

Now there's a much more reasonable number of results, which you can filter down the left hand side using Refine Results, or alternatively, click the Edit button next to the number of results in your final combination.

Look at the HTML and PDF links to access the full text of the article. Hint: If you cannot find a link to the full text of an article it is most likely in another database and can be found with just a couple more clicks by following the Find it at CSU link.

Searching in more than one database in EBSCOhost

Note: if you change databases or search across multiple databases you will not be able to search using subject headings. Each database has its own specialised thesaurus, or list of subject headings.

However, if you wish to search more extensively within a particular database platform, you are able to search across multiple databases at the same time, or change databases and run the search again. 

In EBSCOhost, from any database click on the Choose Databases link above the search boxes, then select other databases in the tick-box menu.

The EBSCOhost databases menu shows the list of databases. You can use the tick boxes beside each one to select or deselect them.

Alternatively, go to the Library's list of Nursing databases and select the listing for EBSCOhost (Health). This will open a package of EBSCOhost databases, all with health-related content.

What is a subject heading?

QUT Library has made this video explaining subject headings and how to use them.

Using CINAHL subject headings

This video demonstrates how to use subject headings in CINAHL

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