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Nursing and Allied Health: Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health

Online Learning



Background Search


  1. Create a search strategy for finding relevant information using the PICO method.  Begin a good online search  with a background investigation. 
  2. Sources for a background investigation include medical encyclopedias and similar types of authoritative medical information. A good online database search begins with planning and organizing your information.

Once you have general background information from an authoritative source (legitimate source) as opposed to Google, fill in the P-I-C-O-(T) chart with possible keyword terms.  This is preliminary to using Medical Subject Headings in an online search.

The P-I-C-O-(T) Libguide will show you how to start the process.  Ask your medical librarian or instructor if you need help getting started.



You can fill in the PICO(T) worksheet below, print a copy or save it as a PDF file under a new name.The worksheet is used to help you formulate a search strategy.


After the Background Search --  and Before the Search


After the background search, you are ready to map your terms to MESH.  MESH stands for Medical Subject Heading.  The best place to investigate your keywords for proper medical terminology is the CINAHL Thesaurus or the PubMed MESH on Demand.  Using the keywords from your P-I-C-O worksheet, find the proper MeSH term in the thesaurus OR MESH BROWSER to see if there is a preferred term or narrower term you might use.  For instance, in addition to the word baby, you might use the term infant.  MeSH on DEMAND shows us additional terms we may not have considered.



TERM MAPPING:  Map your term to MeSH


  1. Type the term into the CINAHL search box and click search.  This opens the CINAHL Thesaurus.
  2. Choose the most specific term
  3. Avoid abbreviations
  4. Check your spelling




Using the Cumulative Index for Nursing and Allied Health (CINAHL) database



CINAHL Headings


In the nursing, medical or allied health professions, terminology must be exact. It is essential that you use the correct term when searching a  database..

  • Click on CINAHL Headings at the top of the search screen in the purple bar.
  • Click on the VIEW Tutorials on the screen.

For example, if you type in the search term Latino, you will be directed to use the term HISPANIC




The preferred term for Latino is Hispanic. You will get more relevant results if you use the proper term in your searching.






  • Select your subject terms
  • Check the box to the left of the term
  • OR, look at the subcategories for the term to see if there is a more narrow term
  • Check the box
  • Include keywords on the pink line
  • press the green search button

The computer will search the database and return results based on the criteria you selected. 


Results Screen


It is almost impossible to do a perfect search; If more than half of your articles are relevant, you have searched correctly. It is not unusual to retrieve too many articles, too few, or not exactly what you need. When that happens, you will need to refine your search strategy. Search engines use algorithms. You must apply professional knowledge of the subject and relevancy.

Refine your search: Add filters (limiters)

  • Use CINAHL Headings and make sure you have the right heading or subheading selected in the pull down menu.
  • Filter by published date using the slider bar to include the last five years.  The most current year is sometimes delayed or embargoed.
  • Check the Peer Reviewed box in order to retrieve scholarly professional journals.
  • Check Has Abstract
  • Check English language
  • Check Human
  • The more filters or limits you add, the fewer results you will retrieve.
  • Initially, DO NOT limit your search to only full text articles unless you need only a few articles. 
  • If the full text is not available, fill out the Interlibrary Loan form (ILL). Most articles can be obtained through Shreveport Nursing Library Interlibrary Loan free of charge.


Refine and Limit Your Results


Refine your results by using the advanced filters menu below the date slider bar.  This is the only place you will see the Peer Reviewed box.


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