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Nursing: Evidence-Informed Practice Search Module- Intermediate

Cinahl tips & tricks



Truncation/ Wildcards

at the end of string retrieves all suffix variations

e.g. computer* retrieves computer, computers, computerised, etc.


within a word or at end of word to replace a single character

e.g. wom#n retrieves women, woman


within a word or at the end of a word to replace zero or one character

e.g. colo?r retrieves color, colour


Phrase/ Parenthesis

" "

finds exact expression

e.g. occupational therapy

( )

specifies the order of the search

e.g. (urban OR city) AND freshwater


Proximity operators


Near operator

retrieves records that contain your terms (in any order) within a specified number (n) of words of each other

e.g. biologist N5 relationship retrieves records that contain the words biologist and relationship within five words of each other in either direction.


Subject headings

CINAHL Headings


expands results to include records with the SH you originally selected, PLUS all of the subject headings in its family hierarchy

Major concept

retrieves articles where indexers consider your topic to be of major significance.



Subheadings are used to further describe a particular aspect of a subject heading concept.

Terms such as "etiology" or "therapy," when combined with a subject heading, give a precise idea of what an article covers.

Use a subheading when it matches one of your concepts, otherwise include them all.

e.g. use urinary tract infections/prevention and control when looking for articles about preventing UTIs


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