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Library Resources for MSN Students: Exploring: CINAHL

This guide provides information on how best to utilize library resources throughout your MSN program at the College of Nursing.

Vocabulary used on this page...


Limits and filters allow you to narrow the results down to only the ones that are most relevant. Common limits that are applied include: article type, date, and language.

Tip: the more limits and filters you set, the narrower your results will be. It is possible for you to limit your results all the way down to 0, so be careful.

Tip 2: do not limit by Full Text. As a student of ECU, you can receive the full text of articles either with your PirateID and password, or through our free Interlibrary Loan (ILL) service if ECU does not own a copy of the article. Electronic resources can be e-mailed to your ECU account.

Creating a personal account

Personal accounts in databases are free, and I strongly recommend creating an account for each database you may use. They are particularly valuable when you need to save your searches for longer than your current browsing period. Closing your browser almost always erases your search history; having a personal account allows you to save searches that you may want to look at again later.

To create an account in CINAHL, click on Sign In at the top of the page.

Screenshot of CINAHL homepage with arrow pointing to Sign in link

Next, click on Create one now.

Screenshot of Sign In page on CINAHL

Fill out the form and follow any additional prompts that may be provided.

Screenshot of account creation page on CINAHL

Basic searching in CINAHL

CINAHL makes its basic search feature fairly simple. Just copy and paste the search string you created from your concept table into the search bar, be sure to un-check the Suggest Subject Terms box, and click Search. (Note: if you leave the Suggest Subject Terms box checked, you will enter the Subject Term tree. For more information on navigating the Subject Term tree, please see the Guide for PhD Students or the Guide DNP Students.)

(Nurse OR Nurses OR "Nursing personnel") AND ("Health literacy") AND (Rural OR "Rural areas" OR "Rural health centers" OR "Rural population" OR "Rural populations" OR "Rural health nursing" OR "Underserved populations")

Screenshot of search page on CINAHL

After clicking Search, you will see the results page. At the top of the results page is your search history, as well. You can apply limits to the results by selecting them on the left-hand sidebar.

Screenshot of results page on CINAHL

As you select filters, CINAHL will refresh the results page to display only those articles that meet the selected criteria.

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How to access the article

To access articles that look relevant to you, click on the article title to open the article page. Click on the purple Find It! button (located in the left-hand sidebar), and follow the prompts.

Screenshot of CINAHL results page

How to save articles

In CINAHL, there are multiple ways to save articles.

1. Saving articles individually: on the article page, choose either Add to Folder or Export in the right-hand sidebar. Saving to Folder saves the article record to your personal CINAHL account. Exporting to a citation manager creates a file that you can download into either RefWorks, Zotero, Mendeley, or EndNote.

Screenshot of Add to folder button on CINAHL

2. Saving articles from the results page: on the results page, click the blue folder icon. This will turn it yellow, indicating that the article has been saved to your folder.

Screenshot of saved record on CINAHL

When you have items saved to your folder, the Folder icon at the top of the page will look like this: Screenshot of Folder icon with saved records on CINAHL

How to save your search

If you created a personal CINAHL account, you can save your search. Click on Save Searches/Alerts above the search history from the search results page.

Screenshot of CINAHL search results page with arrow pointing to Save Search link

Complete the form to save your search or to create an alert. I recommend saving the search with the date within the title so that you can keep track of when you last ran the search on CINAHL.

Setting an alert will allow CINAHL to run your search as frequently as you want it to, and you will receive e-mail alerts when new articles become available that meet your search criteria.

Screenshot of alert page on CINAHL

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