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How to Search Nursing Literature

A guide on bibliographic research in nursing


Once you have established your search strategy you are ready to begin searching the databases!

Tips for Searching:

  1. Keep in mind that searching the literature is an interative process. In running one search you may discover better keywords to use, or limiters to apply. 
  2. Always think of synonyms. Many concepts have multiple ways of describing the concept. For example a heart attack can also be called a myocardial infraction. If your search isn't turning up the results you expect try to think of any synonyms for the concepts you are searching for and "or" them into your search. 
  3. Be careful about using the full-text only limiter. If you limit to full-text you may miss out on key papers. Additionally just because the full text isn't available in CINAHL doesn't mean the library doesn't have access to it through a different resource. If you are running a comprensive search for an integrative review DO NOT limit your search to full-text only. 
  4. Be careful about limiting your search by date. For some projects you may want only recent research. For comprehensive projects, like an integrative review where understanding the full historical context of your topic is important, if you limit your search by date you may miss critical early research.
  5. Remember that you can always exclude papers in the screening process, but you can't make your search more robust after the search phase. 
  6. If you get stuck talk to a librarian!

Advanced Search in CINHAL

See the below PDF on how to use the advanced search features of CINAHL and how to search CINAHL using your PICO.

Boolean operators

If you need a refresher on boolean operators check out this video from Stewart Library at Weber State University. 

Key Databases for Integrative Reviews

These are the key databases for the integrative reviews you will be working on. The topic of your review will determine which databases you decide to search. Remember that you need to search multiple databases to make your literature search as robust as possible. 

Remember to DOCUMENT all your searches. Even if you don't find any articles. If you don't document it you didn't do the work! 

Other Useful Databases