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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.

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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.


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.

Next, click on Sign Up.

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

Infinite looping GIF demonstrating how to create an account 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.

(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")

Note: make sure to change the default settings before you click search. Uncheck Suggest Subject Terms, select Boolean/Phrase, uncheck expanders (Apply related words, also search within the full text, apply equivalent subjects).

Infinite looping GIF demonstrating how to change default settings in 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.

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

Infinite looping GIF demonstrating how to set limits in CINAHL

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

Infinite looping GIF demonstrating how to access full text articles in CINAHL

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.

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.

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

Infinite looping GIF demonstrating how to save results in CINAHL

To permanently save your articles, send them to RefWorks.

1. Click on Export.

2. Select RefWorks.

3. Click Yes, then click Import, and finally click OK.

4. To view the article details, click on the title.

5. To read the full abstract, click on View Full Abstract.

Infinite looping GIF demonstrating how to save articles to RefWorks in CINAHL

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.

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.

Inifite looping GIF demonstrating how to create an alert in CINAHL

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