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

Online Learning


Background Search


Before we begin our online search, let's learn how to create a search strategy for finding relevant information using the PICO method.  Begin a good online search  with a background investigation.  Sources for a background investigation include medical encyclopedias such as GALE GVRL (online), WebMD, Dorlands Medical Encyclopedia (library reference), Tabor's Medical Encyclopedia (library reference), Mayo Clinic website or other Textbooks (library stacks) and similar types of authoritative medical information about your subject.

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

The P-I-C-O Libguide will show you how to start the process. This is what a P-I-C-O chart looks like.  Ask your librarian or instructor if you need help getting started.



Key Questions

A good online database search begins with planning and organizing your information.




View the example PICO worksheet below which is used to formulate a question relating to children with a temperature presenting to Emergency Centers. A blank PICO worksheet is available for you to practice how to formulate your question. ( Purdue University)


PICO Tools


Take a quick look at the PICOT Libguide to see how it's done.



After the Background Search --  and Before the Search


After the Background Search, you are ready to begin the serious work of searching MESH.  MESH stands for Medical Subject Heading.  The best place to investigate your keywords for proper medical terminology is the MESH on Demand.  Using the keywords from your P-I-C-O chart, you will check each term in the MESH BROWSER to see if there is a broader or narrower term you might use.  For instance, in addition to the word baby, you might use the term infant.  So, we type infant into the MESH ON DEMAND page.  Then we click on the word infant and it returns a MESH tree for infant.  Clicking on the tree number, we see words infant and newbornMESH ON DEMAND shows us additional terms we may not have considered.







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


  • Go to the NSULA library home page,,
  • Select Database Directory
  • Select Nursing and Allied Health
  • Select  CINAHL Complete  from within the Nursing & Allied Health group
  • This will take you to the Advanced Search Svreen.


CINAHL Headings


In the nursing profession, terminology must be exact. It is essential that you use the correct term when searching a  database..

  • Go to CINAHL Headings at the top of the search screen in the purple bar. It is easy to locate.  
  • The CINAHL HEADINGS TUTORIAL is easy to use.  Click on the VIEW Tutorials on the screen. Note that the headings are not in alphabetical order.  They are already relevancy ranked like Google results.

For example, if you type in the search term Latino, this is what you will see.




The preferred term for Latino is Hispanic. You will get more relevant results if you use that term in your searching. Now that you have selected your terms, you can perform your search. Go back to the search screen and type in your terms.






Once you have:

  • selected your subject terms
  • entered them in the boxes and pulled down the menu to select subjec; 
  • press the search button

The computer will search the database and return results based on the criteria you selected.  Your search has retrieved two results. The icon shows it is an academic journal.


Bibliographic Citation


The title of the article is titled:  Racial Disparities in intensity of Care at the End-of-Life:  Are Trauma Patients the Same as the Rest?  The Author is Cooper Z, the journal title is Journal of Health Care for the Poor & Underserved, date May2012; 23(2): 857-874. 18p Volume 23, Issue 2; pages 857 - 874. This information is your bibliographic citation.  Access this information for your APA FORMAT bibliography  by clicking on CITE.

This article is not available in PDF Full Text .  You will need to request it through NURSING INTERLIBRARY LOAN.

The second article is available in PDF FULL TEXT. When you have a choice, select PDF full text instead of HTML Full Text.

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.

Improve your search strategy by following these steps.

  • Use CINAHL Headings and make sure you have the right heading or subheading selected in the pull down menu.
  • Check the Peer Reviewed box in order to retrieve scholarly professional journals.
  • FILTER by Published Date to include the last six years.  The most current year is sometimes delayed or embargoed.
  • FILTER by language:  English
  • The more FILTERS or LIMITS you add, the fewer results you will retrieve.
  • DO NOT limit your search to only full text articles unless you need only a few articles. 
  • Borrow articles through Shreveport Nursing Interlibrary Loan if the abstract and subject terms are highly relevant.
  • Most articles, containing only an abstract can be obtained through Shreveport Nursing Library Interlibrary Loan free of charge.


Refine and Limit Your Results


Refine your results by using the FILTERS menu on the left side of your results page. Be sure to click on update after you have made your changes.


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