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CINAHL: Search Tips

Guide to using the nursing database, CINAHL.

Search Tips


CINAHL does NOT work like Google - you want to use keywords and phrases only.  It does not assume an "AND" between your terms, so always link terms you want in your results with the word AND. (it doesn't have to be capitalized)

To help limit your searches, try using Boolean connectors. The main connectors are AND, OR, NOT

AND means that you want only articles that have all the words connected by AND.

OR means that you will accept articles with either word connected by OR.  This is handy for words that are synonymous with each other such as babies OR infants.

NOT means you don't want any of the words after NOT.  For example, the search children NOT infants will only find articles that have the word "children" but don't have the word "infants."

In the Advanced Search, you have the automatic Boolean connectors in drop-down boxes between your search boxes, which makes constructing your search easier.

Hint: To search for names and/or phrases, use quotation marks around your terms.  This tells the database to search for the words in the exact order you have them.  Example: "sudden infant death syndrome"

Hint: When using multiple Booleans in a single search, you may wish to group your terms by parenthesis.  This is especially true if you are using OR.  Example: (babies OR infants) AND colic.


Here is an example of Boolean in a Basic Search:

Searching Multiple Databases

Sometimes you may find that you do not receive enough results while doing your searches even after trying different search terms and strategies.  If that is the case, you may need to branch out and use other databases.  One option for doing this is to add databases to your CINAHL search.

At the top of the search box, there should be a link that says "Choose Databases." Clicking on this link will open a new window that lists all available EBSCOhost databases.  Currently, there are 66 different EBSCOhost databases to choose from, several of which are nursing/health professions-related including Health Source: Nursing/Academic Edition and MEDLINEWarning:  these databases are in no particular order, so you will have to look carefully for the ones you want.

Once you have the databases window open, you can check the boxes next to the databases you wish to use.  In many cases, you can tell what subject area the database covers by its name.  However if you can't tell what a database covers, simply click on the caption icon next to the database name for a brief description.  You also have the option of selecting "Detailed View" which shows the list with brief descriptions of each database.



After choosing your databases click on 'OK' and you will be taken back to the search page.  You will now be simultaneously searching all of the databases you have chosen. If you want to set search options/limits before you begin searching, you will need to do it for each individual database on the main search page.  They will all be shown below the search box.

Linked Full Text

Some of our databases have the option to search for full text when the article is not readily available full text.  In CINAHL, there will be a "Search for Full Text at ASU" link near the bottom of those entries where this is possible.

Clicking on this link will open a new window and take you to Library Journals.  This page will tell you if we have access to the requested journal in any format.  In many cases if the article is found in another database, there will be a link directly to the journal and/or article.  In this case the article is available through the database Science Direct.  Sometimes the link is broken or will give you an error.  If there is another link, try it.  If none of them work, let us know and we will see if there is a linking problem, but in the mean time, order it through Interlibrary Loan because if we can fix it, that may take some time.

On occasion you may see a link to "Retrieve Catalog Item".  This usually means that we have the journal actually inside the library in print format, but sometimes there are multiple links of this type and they actually go to databases, while one links to the print journal in the library.  Click on that link to see which issues are in the library, and try the others to see which databases they may take you to.  Sometimes they are duplicates.


And other times when you click on "Search for Full Text at ASU" your result will be "Request Through Interlibrary Loan".  This means we don't have access to the journal in any way.  In this case, you may wish to request the article through InterLibrary Loan by clicking on the link and following the steps.