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USF School of Nursing: Wegner Services


The Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health (CINAHL) is available via the EBSCOhost platform. CINAHL focuses on over 50 nursing specialties as well as allied health subjects, including speech and language pathology, nutrition, physical therapy, etc.  CINAHL indexes over 5,600 journals and contains more than 7.6 million records.



CINAHL is a subscription database, thus you will need to access CINAHL through the Wegner Health Sciences Library's website. By connecting through the Wegner Health Sciences Library, you will also be linked with Wegner's subscriptions and holdings for access to full-text or to submit an Interlibrary Loan (ILL) if Wegner does not subscribe to that resource.

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Controlled Vocabulary & Keywords

Controlled Vocabulary: CINAHL Subject Headings

Controlled Vocabulary provides a consistent, precise way to retrieve information when different words are used for the same concept, or when the same language is used for different concepts. CINAHL's controlled vocabulary is called CINAHL Subject Headings. CINAHL Subject Headings  are organized in a hierarchy.  The subject headings include indexing annotations, scope notes, entry vocabulary , history notes, and allowable subheadings.  CINAHL Subject Headings can be found on the top of the databases in the blue bar.

CINAHL Homepage



Keywords are all the ways to say the same thing and are valuable when there is no controlled vocabular for your search term.  Keywords also catch newer articles that have not yet been, or will not be, indexed with controlled vocabulary. Terms used as keywords will be searched for in the title, abstract, or other text field in the citation record.  Keywords can be:

  • synonyms (Acetaminophen/Tylenol; unit/ward)
  • acronyms (ECMO, CAUTI)
  • free text
  • natural language
  • user-selected terms
  • professional lingo
  • alternate spellings (healthcare/health care; pediatric/paediatric)
  • and more... 



Use controlled vocabulary AND keywords TOGETHER!

Phrases, Truncation & Wildcards, & Field Codes


If you have a phrase, it is recommended to search it within quotation marks ("), otherwise the phrase could be split and the terms searched separately, e.g., "kidney allograft".  If you search for a hyphenated word, CINAHL will search both the hyphenated and non-hyphenated forms, e.g., cancer-causing will retrieve cancer-causing and cancer causing.


Truncation & Wildcards

You can use truncation or wildcard symbols to create searches with unknown characters, multiple spellings, or vaious endings.  CINAHL recognizes three truncation or wildcard symbols:

  • * - The asterisk (*) matches multiple characters.
  • # - The hash sign (#) matches one optional character
  • ? - The question mark (?) matches exactly one character

Asterisk Wildcard

The asterisk is the truncation wildcard and is used to find various word endings.

  • vaccin* will search vaccine, vaccines, vaccinate, vaccinates, vaccinated, vaccination, vaccinations, vaccinator, etc.

The asterisk can also be used within words to find multiple characters.

  • hea*one will search for words beginning with "hea" and ending with "one", such as headphone, headstone, hearthstone.

The asterisk can also be used between words to match any single word.

  • virtual * visit will find terms such as virtual site visit, virtual prenatal visit, virtual home visit

Hash Wildcard

Use the hash wildcard in your search term where an alternate spelling might contain an extra character.

  • Searching behavio#r will find records with the terms behavior and behaviour

Question Mark Wildcard

Use the question mark wildcard in the middle of a word to find exactly one character.

  • hospitali?ation will find records with the terms hospitalization and hospitalisation.

Do not use the question mark wildcard at the end of a word, if done, CINAHL will remove it from the query.  If you need to use it at the end of a term, you will need to put the hash wildcard before it (e.g., Monday#?).  However, it is recommended to use the asterisk wildcard at the end of a word.

Combining Wildcards

Wildcards can be combined in a search term.

  • p#ediatric* will retrieve terms such as pediatric, paediatric, pediatrician, paediatrician, etc.

Restrictions when using wildcards:

  • Wildcards are not allowed as the first character in a search term.
  • If there is only one leading character before a wildcard then there must be at least one additional literal character within the first four characters.
    • f#r* (allowed because two literal characters are within the first four characters)
    • f??* (not allowed because only one leading character within the first four characters)
  • When using any wildcard in a search term, the plural or possessive forms and any synonyms for the word will not automatically be searched. For example; when searching for colo#r, the plural words "colors" and "colours" are not searched.
  • Wildcards do not work with Chinese (中文), Japanese (日本人), and Korean (한국어) languages.


Field Codes

Field Codes are used with keywords and act like a command that tells the database where to search for the keywords. In CINAHL, you can either pick a field code from the dropdown menu or enter the two-letter code in front of your search. If entering the two-letter code, it must be in ALL CAPS. The two options can be seen below for a search in the titles only.

Field code options in CINAHL

Boolean & Proximity Operators

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Boolean Operators

Boolean operators are used to combine all of your terms together. Boolean operators must be in ALL CAPS in order to be properly recognized by the database. CINAHL recognizes three Boolean operators:


OR will broaden your search. Use OR between like terms. "intensive care unit*" OR "critical care unit*" OR icu

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AND will narrow your search.  Use AND between different terms. "Intensive care unit*" AND "compassion fatigue"

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NOT will exclude terms from your search. Please consult with a librarian before using NOT in a search as you may be excluding vital references.  adult NOT child

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Proximity Operators

Proximity searching allows you to search for two or more words that occur within a certain number of words from each other. CINAHL's proximity operators are comprised of a letter (N or W) and a number (n specifies the number of words).  CINAHL recognizes two proximity operators: 

  • Near Operator (N) finds words in the maximum specified number apart from one another regardless of the order in which they appear.
    • infertility N5 insurance will retrieve phrases such as infertility covered by insurance, infertility without insurance, insurance coverage for infertility, etc.
  • Within Operator (W) finds words in the maximum specified number apart from one another in the exact order in which you entered them.
    • pediatric W3 pneumonia will retrieve terms like pediatric community-acquired pneumonia and pediatric admissions for pneumonia, but it will not retrieve pneumonia among pediatric patients.


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