Skip to Main Content

CINAHL and RefWorks: Tutorial

CINAHL Part 1 - Introduction and sample search

CINAHL is a key database for nursing and allied health.  Use CINAHL to locate and retrieve academic, peer-reviewed journal articles for your assignment or research.

  • Like Medline and other Ovid databases, CINAHL uses medical subject headings
  • However the screen layout is different as this is on the EBSCO platform
  • Note that the procedures below will be relevant to other databases on the EBSCO platform, such as AMED (Alternative Medicine), EconLit (useful for Health Economics), Sport Discus (Physiotherapy, Sport and Exercise Science).  

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

For more on Boolean logic and other literature searching techniques, see:

CINAHL Part 1: sample search

CINAHL: sample search

  • Panopto Video (requires University of Birmingham login):

Locate and open CINAHL Plus via FindIt@Bham. 

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

  • On the main search page in CINAHL, k​eep box ticked for "Suggest Subject Headings"

  • Enter your f​​​​irst term: Postnatal depression in the search bar and select Search on the right 

CINAHL search screen with postnatal depression in search box

  • On the following screen the subject heading is indicated "Depression, post-partum"

  • Keep the tick in the "Subheadings" box (this allows for more results) and select Search Database




  • Now enter the next term:  "Community mental health nursing": find and choose the matching subject heading


  • On the main screen, connect the above two headings by using the "Search with AND" grey button: these should be clearly on the screen as S2, S1 to indicate each search line


  • At each stage, the results are further down the screen

  • To view the articles, use the "FindIt@Bham" link which leads to the full text (where available)

  • 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

When you find a subject heading, there may be a tick-box available in the column headed Explode, to the right on the screen.  If you tick this box, it will include narrower or more precise subject headings - for examples, selecting Diabetes and the Explode box will include articles with the headings Diabetes Type I, Diabetes Type II. 

Accessibility statement