How To Get Started Using CINAHL Effectively

Outline of this page

CINAHL stands for Cumulated Index To Nursing And Allied Health Literature. It indexes and abstracts articles from a large number of nursing, medical, and allied health journals, as well as a variety of other materials, such as conference proceedings and laws. CINAHL itself does not include the full text of journal articles, but links to the text in other EBSCOhost databases.

CINAHL via EBSCOhost can be accessed from the library's database page at If you are accessing the database from outside the Chemeketa campus, you will need your My Chemeketa user name and password.

For audiovisual tutorials on using CINAHL, see the nursing resources page.

Keyword searching

The EBSCOhost interface to CINAHL is easy to use. The default search is by keyword. Enter a word or phrase in the top search space and click the Search button at right. To combine terms, use more than one search space. The pull-down menus next to the search spaces let you choose to combine your terms with AND, OR, and NOT.
CINAHL search space
See Boolean Searching ( for more on how to combine terms in searching.

Using CINAHL's subject index

picture of cinahl headings button

It is also possible to search by using subject headings, or descriptors, assigned by CINAHL. This is a good practice, as it tends to result in a more focused search and guards against problems caused when different authors use different terminology to describe the same thing. To use these descriptors, click the button marked "CINAHL Headings," in the toolbar at the top of the CINAHL screen.

Type a term describing your subject in the space provided and click the Browse button. In the example, we have typed "nursing home."

picture of cinahl heading screen
A list of headings related the words, "nursing home" appears, part of which is shown in the illustration. To search for all articles with the subject heading "nursing homes," click the check box next to the term (number 1 in the illustration) and click the Search Database button.

Instead of searching for the term, "Nursing homes," immediately, we can explore the term further. Clicking on the term itself (number 2 in the illustration), instead of the check box, results in a screen with details about the term.
picture of screen showing expanded term information
To one side of the screen (under the heading "Tree View for Nursing Homes") we see a hierarchical list of terms with our chosen term, "Nursing Homes," in the middle. Subject headings above "Nursing Homes" in the outline are broader, more general terms. Those below "Nursing Homes" are narrower, more specific terms. If we wished, we could choose "Skilled Nursing Facilities," the more specific term, by clicking on that term.


When you choose a term by clicking in the box next to it, a list of subheadings will appear on the screen. Subdivisions are particular aspects of the subject we are searching. If you do not click on one or more subdivisions, all will be included in the search.
picture of subheading list

For example, to look for articles dealing the history of nursing homes, you would click the box next to "History." After choosing subdivisions, click the Search button to see the results.

Interpreting Results

Here is a sample article citation with an explanation of the parts:

CINAHL citation example

Alternate text-based sample and explanation

Frequently-Asked Questions

Q: Can I print the articles from CINAHL?picture of link to PDF full text
A: Since there are very few full-text articles, clicking the "print" link in the CINAHL citation will give only the citations and abstracts. You can get the paper journal from the shelf, if available, or check for electronic text with the 360 link (see below).

Q: What is the 360 Link?picture of link to check for full text in another database
A: The 360 Link icon and text link ("Check for full text") searches the library's non-EBSCOhost databases, such as Ovid and Science Direct, for full text of an article. If 360 Link finds full text, it will present the article in a new window. If there is no full text, the 360 Link screen will show other options, such as searching in the library catalog for a paper copy of the journal, or interlibrary loan. You can close the 360 Link window at any time.

Q: How about printing a list of citations?

A: You can print a list from CINAHL containing only the citations you select. Following each citation is a link and icon marked, "Add to folder." The screen with detailed information about the article also has a folder icon you can click. Clicking on this will add that citation to a list. EBSCO icon for adding to a folder When you click on Folder at the very top of the screen, only the citations you have selected will appear. You can then choose the Print icon at the top of your list. Pull down the menu under "Citation Format" to select "APA ," then click the "Print" button. Your list of citations will be shown on the screen. Important: When working with folders, do not use the browser's Back button. Use the on-screen navigation links instead.

Q: I need an article written by a nurse. How can I find this?
A: If the article is in a nursing journal, chances are that it was written by a nurse. If you wish to limit strictly to articles written by nurses, use the limiter on the results screen that says "Any author is a nurse."

Q: Can I have CINAHL show only articles that are in Chemeketa's library?
picture of the screen showing EBSCOhost options to limit and update results A: When searching, use the CINAHL headings first. Then click the box next to "Chemeketa periodicals" at the left side of the search results screen, and click the "Update Results" button."

Q: Can I limit to nursing journals approved by Chemeketa's nursing faculty?
If you limit to the nursing subset and to Chemeketa journals you will automatically have the "approved" journals. For how to do this, see the previous two answers.

Q: How can I tell whether an article has references?
A: Click on the title of the article to see the full record. The number of references will be shown in parentheses after the page numbers under "Source." Example: "(12 ref)." Some, but not all, entries actually link to a list of the references, so that you can check the references without having to get the journal off the shelf. Absence of this link does not mean that the article is without references. Whether a link to the references is provided depends on whether the publisher has agreed to this. The only certain way to know whether an article has references is to click on the title. See the answer below on how to limit your results only to articles with references.

Q: I need to have an article with references. Is there a way to specify this in the search?
A: Yes. On the Advanced Search form, choose a blank line. Pull down the menu next to it that says "Select a field" and choose RF number of references. On the blank line type "ref."

picture of cinahl advanced search screen

Q: Why isn't there an abstract of my article?
A: You may need to scroll down to see the abstract after clicking on the article title. Not all articles have abstracts. Brief news articles, letters to the editor, and similar items do not have abstracts. Recent entries may not yet have had an abstract prepared. CINAHL did not start including abstracts in its articles until the mid-1990s, so the oldest articles have no abstracts, either.

Q: I need a recent article. How can I find the most recent ones on my subject?
A: A date limit is available in the Refine Your Results sidebar on the result page. You can also click the Sort link at the top of the results to change the sort order to "Date Descending," which will put the newest articles at the beginning of the results.

Q: I can only use journals published in the United States. Can I limit to U.S. periodicals?
A: The Advanced Search screen has special limiters. Choose "USA" from the pull-down list of journal subsets on the Advanced Search screen. Another way to do this is to type "USA" on a blank search line, and pull down "SB Journal Subset" from the menu that says "Select a Field."

Q: I need to search for an article on fractures in the elderly. Can I limit my search by age?
A: Yes. CINAHL has pull-down Age Group lists in the lower part of its Advanced Search screen. (See answer above.) You could select the "in old age" limiter from the list. CINAHL allows you to limit by age group or time of life, from fetal to extreme old age.

Q: How can I find an article on a specific surgery?
A: You may have to try more than one search term. Click the CINAHL headings button to see what descriptors CINAHL uses. You can search on the name of the procedure, on the name of the condition, or on the name of the organ or body part. Conditions and body parts as descriptors generally use "surgery" as one of their subdivisions. For example, you might perform three different searches describing the same operation: hysterectomy; endometriosis and surgery; uterus and surgery. If your search fails, try a broader search.

To comment or request help, please e-mail Reference or call 503.399.5231.

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Updated: 7 February 2012