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Literature searching for Medical and Dental Sciences

Activity 3C: CINAHL (EBSCO)

CINAHL is a key database for nursing and allied health.  

  • Like Medline and other Ovid databases, CINAHL uses medical subject headings
  • However the screen layout is different as CINAHL is on the EBSCO platform

Other useful EBSCO databases for Medicine, Health and related subjects include:

Use CINAHL to locate and retrieve quality, peer-reviewed journal articles for your assignment or research.

Use the search screen and suggested subject headings (Medical Headings) to build up a search line-by-line.  As well as these headings, you can also use freetext keywords which occur in the article or article description.

Then connect the search lines using Boolean logic:

  • AND to focus the search to items about all the lines selected, not just one or other term on its own
  • OR to bring alternatives together in a broader set
  • In the Effective Search Techniques guide, see "Using Boolean and other search operators"
  • The "Rockwell Shrock Boolean Machine" has a simple graphic 

Watch the Panopto Video above for a sample search on the CINAHL database. Includes sub-titles.

Sample search: outline

Locate and open CINAHL Plus via FindIt@Bham.  You can use your own topic or follow the sample search below.

Sample search: "Community mental health nursing and postnatal depression"

On the main search page in CINAHL:

K​eep box for "Suggest Subject Headings" ticked before entering your first term in the search bar

  1. Postnatal depression - enter the term in the search bar and select Search on the right

CINAHL search screen with postnatal depression in search box

  • This suggests the subject heading "Depression, post-partum": tick to choose this heading
  • Keep the tick in the "Subheadings" box (this allows for more results)
  • Click "Search Database"


CINAHL subject headings page with options to check scope, select correct heading, then search database for results


      2. Next term:  "Community mental health nursing".  Find and choose the matching subject heading*

      3. AND: on the main screen, connect the above two headings by using the "Search with AND" grey button just above them:

Combining search results using "Search with AND" button

  • The results are further down the screen
  • To view the articles, use the "FindIt@Bham" link which leads to the full text (where available)
  • NB: you can introduce further terms as appropriate: alternative terms to connect with OR; different headings with AND
    • For example, find "Systematic Review" and use AND with the above to identify any systematic reviews about postpartum depression and community health nursing

*NB: When you find a subject heading, always check if the Explode automatically included if you tick that box.  You can check for these by clicking on the heading itself to show the subject tree.  

Save Searches / Alerts

To save the whole search history or strategy, select Save searches / alerts above the search lines.

Search history / alerts options in CINAHL

  • Then set up an individual account (free!) to name and save the search history.  This can be accessed and re-run later. 

Saving to referencing software: EndNote Online

A: Direct export

There is a 'Direct Export to Endnote Web' option for EBSCO databases such as CINAHL (Nursing / Allied Health).

  1. Tick the blue folder icon by each article or item you wish to save: the folder then will become yellow
    • Or: select all results on that page by using the Share button at the top: then click on Results (1-10)
    • Use Page Options to increase the number of results which display on one screen page
  2. Now use the Folder View option on the right to go to the folder screen with the marked references
  3. In the Folder View screen, select the records and use Export and select 'Direct Export to EndNote Web' from the drop-down options
  4. This should take you through to EndNote Online 
    • Sign in to EndNote Online with your login details if required
  5. Go to [Unfiled] to locate the results and add these to a new or existing Group

Watch the following Panopto video (includes sub-titles).  This uses an example in the database Business Source Premier, but the steps are the same for CINAHL. Both are databases on the EBSCO platform.


B: Export as RIS file ('indirect' export)

Alternatively, an RIS file can be downloaded from the database and then uploaded into EndNote Online.  

  1. Select the items required (tick individual folder icons or use 'Share'), then go to Folder View
  2. In Folder View, choose 'Direct Export in RIS format' and save the file (eg to Desktop)
  3. In Endnote online, go to Collect - Import references
  4. Locate the RIS file, choose RefMan RIS as the Import Option, and upload the file

Watch the following Panopto video (includes sub-titles) or follow the instructions further below.


The following screenshots illustrate the export process.  




A: Direct Export to EndNote Web (ie EndNote Online):


B: Export as RIS file for upload into EndNote Online (indirect export):

If items are in the [Unfiled] area in EndNote Online, select these and use Add to group for an existing or named group (folder).



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