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Database Search Tips

This guide will help get you started in some of our most popular databases! Happy searching! Let us know if we can help.


CINAHL, or the Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, indexes the top nursing and allied health literature including PT/OT, speech pathology, audiology, nutrition, public health and social work. This database includes over 3,000 journals including many open access journals, dating as far back as 1937 to present.  Many articles include full text. It also includes research instruments, continuing education modules, evidence-based care sheets and quick lessons. CINAHL uses its own CINAHL Subject Headings that are related to PubMed's MeSH headings but are also more nursing and allied health specific.

Most useful for:

Getting Started

CINAHL Tutorials provided by Ebscohost

Basic Searching Instructions

Search using CINAHL Subject Headings

1. To find a relevant CINAHL Heading for your search term, check the box beside Suggest Subject Terms.

2. Enter your first concept in the search box. Click Search.

3. From the list, find the CINAHL Heading that is most relevant to your concept.

4. Click on the underlined term to view its broader and narrower headings. The terms indented under a broad heading are its narrower terms. A “+” in the Tree View indicates narrower headings that can be displayed.

5. Check the box to the left of the CINAHL Heading you want to include in your search. To include a term’s narrower headings, make sure the box in the Explode column (to the right of the CINAHL Heading) is checked. Leave the Include All Subheadings box checked.

6. Click the Search Database button on the upper right side of the page.

7. Repeat steps 1-6 for each concept in your question/topic. Then combine each of your search sets. (See Combining Search Terms below for more information).

Searching with Keywords

1. Enter words or phrases that describe your topic in the search box. Put each unique concept in a separate box.

2. Combine keywords using AND or OR from the drop-down beside the search boxes.

3. Click Search.

Combining your Search terms

OR will find references with any of the search terms. Use OR to broaden your search.

AND will find references with all the search terms. Use AND to narrow your search.

Search History (Combining your Search results)

Click on the Search History link (under the search boxes) to display your searches or search sets. Check the box beside each set you wish to include in the search. Then click on the Search with AND or Search with OR button. (Note: Before combining sets, make sure the search boxes above the search history are clear!)

Working with the Results

Limiting/Refining your Combined Search Results


Common limits include English Language, Publication Date, Peer Reviewed, Age Groups, and Publication Types.


Limiting to Research Article retrieves reports of studies or systematic reviews. Peer Reviewed will limit to articles in peer reviewed journals.

Note: Once limiting options are set, they are applied to subsequent searches unless changed or removed.

Click on Show More to see all limit options.

Saving your Searches via My EBSCOhost

1. With an account, you can save and retrieve a search strategy, set up an e-mail alert to receive new references on your topic, store references in permanent folders for future use, and share your results with colleagues within your institution.

2. To set up a personal account, click on Sign In (in the blue bar on upper right side of screen). Then click on Create a new Account.

3. To save your Search History, click on Save Searches /Alerts (above Search History). This creates a permanent link so you can return to the search later.


On the following page, you will be able to save the search temporarily or permanently, with a name and description if needed.

Steps to Find Full-Text Articles

If you are unable to find full-text articles using the links below, you will need to order it via InterLibrary Loan (Step #3).

Before making a request for full-text articles through Interlibrary Loan (ILL), please try steps #1 and #2 to search for the full-text. This allows our service to focus on articles that are not available for free nor via our Duke subscriptions. Our Interlibrary Loan service is no charge to Duke borrowers for all article requests. If there are copyright or other fees associated with your article request, we will contact you.

  1. Find the article citation in a database: If you aren't already in a database, go back to PubMed or other database such as CINAHL, Embase, or Web of Science to look up the article. Why? Because our Get it @ Duke button will fill out the ILL form for you with all the article information – this saves you time and ensures greater citation accuracy.
  2. Click the GetIt@Duke button: Once you locate the article in a citation database, click the Get It @ Duke link.
  3. Select second button to request as Med Center User: From the page that says “We don't have this online — see below for other ways to get it” click the green button that says “Request – Med Center users.”
  4. Log on with your DHE / NetID username and password: This will take you to the ILL form. The article information will be filled into the form automatically. Scroll to the bottom, verify accuracy, and click submit.

If you can't find the citation in a database or you don't see a GetIt@Duke button, you can place a request manually through our interlibrary loan service. Follow the steps below.

Questions about Interlibrary Loan? All interlibrary loan questions should go to Louis Wiethe, Document Delivery & Interlibrary Loan Manager, 919.660.1179 or

CINAHL: Get Search Alerts




  • My EBSCOHost is a personalized account for EBSCO databases (CINAHL, PsycInfo, ERIC, etc.) to save searches, citations and create search alerts
  • Create a My EBSCOHost account by clicking the "Sign in" link in the upper right corner of the menu bar in CINAHL

Create search alert

  • Sign-in to your My EBSCO Host account
  • Run search in CINAHL, choose any filters that you wish to apply to your search
  • Click the "Alert/Save'Share" link in the right corner of your search results Alert/Save/Share
  • A drop-down tab will appear; under "Create an alert", choose "Email alert" and select the frequency, time period and format of items you would like to receive
  • Click "Save Alert"
  • You will begin to receive emails when new citations that meet your search criteria become available

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