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School of Nursing

Library resources for the School of Nursing

Link to CINAHL (Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health Literature)

Using Subject Searching in CINAHL

Why subject search?

  • If a term has more than one meaning keyword searching won’t capture the concept.
  • Many articles and pieces of literature indexed in Medline or CINAHL are assigned specific subject headings.
  • Subject headings work like a thesaurus, by pulling all articles on a concept together.

The result?  There is no need to worry about synonyms, plurals or variations in spelling.

Please note that the OHSU CINAHL interface is not set up to search for suggested subject headings first ... if you want to search using subject headings, click the "Suggest Subject Terms" box at the top to find the subject heading that matches your concept, then search the database to retrieve all citations that have been assigned that heading.

Screenshot pointing out the location of the "suggest subject terms" checkbox on the CINAHL advanced search screen

CINAHL and Nursing Classification

CINAHL uses some subject headings that include acronyms at the end of the heading, such as Sensory-Perceptual Alterations (NANDA) or Risk Identification (Iowa NOC).

When searching CINAHL for a topic, it is recommended that a more general subject heading be used. 

Only use the nursing classification subject headings if you are looking for records that specifically mention the classification.

These acronyms refer to nursing classification systems:

The EBP Limit in CINAHL

Applying this limiter allows you to limit results to:

  • Articles from evidence-based practice journals
  • Articles about evidence-based practice
  • Research articles (including systematic reviews, clinical trials, meta analyses, etc.)
  • Commentaries on research studies (applying practice to research)

It is one way to limit a search, but will not capture all the evidence!

Nurse as Author in CINAHL

Searching CINAHL to Find Articles Written by Nurses

In 2009, CINAHL, the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, introduced two limiters to CINAHL Advanced Search, entitled “First Author is Nurse” and “Any Author is Nurse." Applying these limits will narrow search results to articles written (from 2009 onwards) by authors with an RN, BSN, MSN or equivalent foreign credential (such as the British  “RGN” or “RMN”), as long as the credentials are listed in the article.  The two limiters are both found on the limits page, which is accessible under “Search Options” on the main search page of CINAHL Advanced Search or under “Refine Your Results/Show More” on the search results page in CINAHL Advanced Search.  

Other means of finding articles with nurse authors:

  • Use the CINAHL field “AF Author Affiliation,” which restricts a search to the institution of an author, as listed in the article.  To illustrate, entering “nursing” in the search box on the main search page of CINAHL Advanced Search and selecting the field “AF Author Affiliation” (located in the box with a drop-down menu between the main search box and the “Search” button) will restrict search results to articles written by authors affiliated with an institution that has the word “nursing” in the title, such as “College of Nursing” or “School of Nursing.” 
  • The “AF Author Affiliation” field also makes it possible to search by nursing qualification, such as “DNP,” “CRNA” or “FNP,” if this qualification appears adjacent to the name of an author of the article in the text of the article itself.  For example, entering “FNP” in the search box with the “AF Author Affiliation” field specified will return articles with an author who is a family nurse practitioner.
  • Use the “Nursing” limiter found in the drop-down menu under “Journal Subset” on the limits page in either CINAHL Advanced Search or CINAHL Basic Search.  This limit will restrict search results to journals with a nursing focus. 

One final note: The user must still examine an article to check whether or not there are nursing credentials listed for the author, such as “Debra Davis RN, MSN, DSN.”

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CINAHL Clinical Queries

Clinical Queries are built in filters that allow users to limit searches with specific search strategies, to aid in retrieving scientifically sound and clinically relevant study reports indexed in CINAHL databases. Searches can be refined using specific search strategies designed to produce results in five research areas:

  • Therapy
  • Prognosis
  • Review
  • Qualitative
  • Causation (Etiology)

As research may require different emphasis, three strategies are provided for each area.

  • High Sensitivity is the broadest search, to include ALL relevant material. It may also include less relevant materials.
  • High Specificity is the most targeted search to include only the most relevant result set, may miss some relevant materials.
  • Best Balance retrieves the best balance between Sensitivity and Specificity.

To perform a search using Clinical Queries

  1. Enter the CINAHL database.
  2. Enter your search terms.
  3. Go to the "Show More" under the date range slider to see the "Search Options" page, and select the desired choices (from above) in the Clinical Query box.
  4. Click Search.

Evidence Based Publication Types in CINAHL

Try adding one or all of the publication type limits from the list below to a search to retrieve evidence-based results. You access the additional limits page by clicking "edit" next the the search you're working with in your search history: