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Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Bachelor of Psychiatric Nursing, Centre for Professional Nursing Education

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CINAHL Search Tips

Combining Searches Using Boolean Operators

  • A comprehensive and systematic search of CINAHL includes both controlled vocabulary and keyword terms (i.e. free text, natural language, and synonyms).

  • Boolean operators are used to combine search terms. In CINAHL, you can use the operators AND, OR, and NOT.

  • Boolean operators MUST be used as upper case (AND, OR, NOT).

    • OR--use OR between similar keywords, like synonyms, acronyms, and variations in spelling within the same idea or concept

    • AND—use AND to link ideas and concepts where you want to see both ideas or concepts in your search results

    • NOT—used to exclude specific keywords from the search, however, you will want to use NOT with caution because you may end up missing something important.

  • Go to the “Advanced Search” page to combine searches (in CINAHL this is typically the default homepage). Your search history will be located above your results during your search session and can be viewed by clicking the “Search History” beneath the search boxes.

Truncation & Wildcards

  • In CINAHL you can use * at the root of a word to find multiple endings. For example:

arthroplast* will return arthroplasty, arthroplasties, arthroplastic, arthroplastics, etc.

mobili* will return mobility, mobilization, mobilisation, mobilize, etc.

  • You can also use a ? as a wildcard to search for letter variants within a word (e.g. wom?n finds women and woman)

  • In CINAHL you can use truncation and phrase searching at the same time. e.g. "early childhood mobili*"

Proximity Searching

  • CINAHL allows for proximity searching through the use of two operators (N or W), along with a number to indicate the proximity of the words (up to 255 words).

  • N operator: The N operator stands for “Near Operator." Typing N5 would find two words within 5 words of each other without considering the order in which the words are entered. (therapy N5 sleep) looks for the word therapy within 5 words of sleep.

  • W operator: The W operator stands for "Within Operator." Typing W5 follows the order the words are typed. (therapy W5 sleep) would find “therapy for improved sleep,” but it would not find “sleep therapy”)

This content is adapted from “CINAHL Plus Search Tips” by Simon Robins, which is licensed under Creative Commons 4.0 License, CC BY.

Keyword Searching in CINAHL

Finding & Using Keywords in CINAHL Searches

  • Keyword terms can be single words or phrases.

  • Use quotes around all phrases to ensure that the phrase is searched instead of each word individually. (e.g. “public health”)

  • Consult CINAHL's thesaurus for ideas of additional terms to add to your search. You can access the thesaurus by clicking on the "CINAHL Headings" link on the top of the screen. See the video below on how to find CINAHL Headings & use effectively in a search.

  • More information on Finding & Using CINAHL Subject Headings

The above content is adapted from “CINAHL Plus Search Tips” by Simon Robins, which is licensed under Creative Commons 4.0 License, CC BY.

Database Search Filters

Search filters are pre-made database searches, created by expert searchers, that can be added to your own search to control results. Search filters are often used to limit to specific types of research, such as qualitative studies, specific topics, such as COVID-19, or specific populations, such as people experiencing homelessness. 

Note: Filters should be cited when used for research purposes.

CINAHL Search Filter Examples

The following search filters can be copied and pasted into the Library's CINAHL Plus Database. Visit one of the Search Filter Resources links for more CINAHL search filters, as well as search filters for MEDLINE (OVID version) and PubMed. 

Search Filter to Retrieve Studies related to COVID-19 from the CINAHL Database
Copy and paste the following into the CINAHL Search Box
 (((MH "Coronavirus+") OR (MH "Coronavirus Infections+") or (coronavirus* or corona virus* or OC43 or NL63 or 229E or HKU1 or HCoV* or ncov* or covid* or sars-cov* or sarscov* or Sars-coronavirus* or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus*)) NOT ( (SARS or SARS-CoV or MERS or MERS-CoV or Middle East respiratory syndrome or camel* or dromedar* or equine or coronary or coronal or covidence* or covidien or influenza virus or HIV or bovine or calves or TGEV or feline or porcine or BCoV or PED or PEDV or PDCoV or FIPV or FCoV or SADS-CoV or canine or CCov or zoonotic or avian influenza or H1N1 or H5N1 or H5N6 or IBV or murine corona*)) or (MH "COVID-19") OR (MH "COVID-19 Pandemic") OR (MH "SARS-CoV-2")  or(covid or 2019-ncov or ncov19 or ncov-19 or 2019-novel CoV or sars-cov2 or sars-cov-2 or sarscov2 or sarscov-2 or Sars-coronavirus2 or Sars-coronavirus-2 or SARS-like coronavirus* or coronavirus-19  or ((novel or new or nouveau) N2 (CoV or nCoV or coronavirus* or “corona virus” or Pandemi*)) or (( subvariant* or variant*) adj2 (India* or "South Africa*" or UK or English or Brazil* or alpha or beta or delta or gamma or kappa or lambda or mu or AY.X or "BA.1" or "BA.2" or "BA.3"  or "P.1" or "C.37")) or ("B.1.1.7" or "B.1.351" or "B.1.617.1" or "B.1.617.2" or "B.1.1.529*" or "B.1.61.7*" or "21L/BA.2" or "21K/BA.1") or Deltacron or  Omnicron)   and  EM 20190601-20301231

Search Filter Reference: Campbell, Sandy.  Search Hedge to Retrieve Studies related to COVID-19 from the EBSCO CINAHL Database. John W. Scott Health Sciences Library, University of Alberta. Rev. March 15, 2022.

Search filter to retrieve Qualitative Research Studies from the CINAHL Database
Copy and paste the following into the CINAHL Search Box
(MH “action research”) or (MH "Audiorecording") or (MH "cluster sample+") or (MH "constant comparative method") or (MH "content analysis") or (MH "discourse analysis") or (MH "ethnographic research") or (MH "ethnological research") or (MH "ethnography") or (MH "ethnonursing research") or (MH "field studies") or (MH "focus groups") or (MH "grounded theory") or (MH "Historical Records") or (MH "Interviews+") or (MH "Narratives") or (MH “naturalistic inquiry”) or (MH "observational methods+") or (MH "phenomenological research") or (MH "phenomenology") or (MH "purposive sample") or (MH "qualitative studies") or (MH "qualitative validity+") or (MH "questionnaires") or (MH "thematic analysis") or (MH "theoretical sample") or (MH "Videorecording+") or TX colaizzi* or TX constant comparative or TX constant comparison or TX cooperative inquir* or TX co-operative inquir* or TX co operative inquir* or TX Corbin* TX data saturat* or TX discourse* analysis or  TX emic or TX etic or TX ethnon* or TX field research or TX field stud* or TX focus group* or TX Foucault* or TX giorgi* or TX Glaser* or TX grounded analysis or TX grounded research or TX grounded studies or TX grounded study or TX grounded theor* or TX heidegger* or TX hermeneutic* or TX heuristic or TX human science or TX husserl* or TX life experiences or TX life stor* or TX lived experience* or TX merleau ponty* or TX narrative analysis or TX qualitative or TX participant observ* or TX phenomenol* or TX purpos* sampl* or TX questionnaire* or TX semiotics or TX spiegelberg* or TX Strauss* TX van kaam* or TX van manen*

Content adapted from the Finding Qualitative Research Articles Library Guide created by University of Washington Libraries, which is licensed under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license

Search Filter to Retrieve Studies related to People Experiencing Homelessness from the CINAHL Database
Copy and paste the following into the CINAHL Search Box

MH (“Homeless people”) or MH (“Homelessness”) or ((vulnerable or migrant or transient*) N2 (people or person* or individual* or child* or youth* or population* or worker* or men or women or man or woman)) or (street N2 (people or person* or individual* or youth* or population* or child* or men or women or man or woman)) or ( hard to house or lack of housing or substandard housing or unstably housed or underhoused or under housed or squatter* or homeless* or vagabond* or  vagrant* or indigent) or (marginal* N2 (population* or people* or group* or hous*))

Search Filter Reference: Campbell, Sandy.  Filter to Retrieve Studies Related to Homelessness in the EBSCO CINAHL Database. John W. Scott Health Sciences Library, University of Alberta. Rev. June 7, 2020.

Search Filter Links & Resources

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