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CINAHL (Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature): Limiting Your Search

Cinahl covers the journal literature of nursing, biomedicine, alternative/complementary medicine, and 17 allied health disciplines

Limiter Tips for Cinahl

Tip 1: There is some duplication between the options. For example, the option to limit your search to a predefined evidence-based practice subset is both a check box, and listed in the publication type drop box. If you have made your selection in one place, you don't need to select the same choice twice.

Tip 2 : The most helpful limits to consider are "Peer Reviewed", "Evidence-Based Practice" or the "Clinical Queries."

  • If you select "Evidence-Based Practice" then the other options on this page (Meta-Synthesis and Randomized Control Trial) should be included in the EBM limit.
  • Also, we assume that results limited to EBM are also "Peer Reviewed", so if you click on EBM, you probably don't need to select Peer Reviewed if you select EBM.
  • However, if you do not retrieve many results after limiting to EBM, then limit to Peer Review instead. This is will broaden your search to additional high quality research studies.

Tip 3: If there are specific types of research designs you wish to limit to (ie cohort studies) it might be better to search for this study design as a Cinahl heading and add this to a subject based search.

Cinahl Limits

There are a lot of options on the Cinahl limiters page. Below is a definition of some of the options.

What is included in the CINAHL Evidence-Based Practice limiter?

When applied, the Evidence-Based Practice limiter searches the Special Interest field for the value "Evidence-Based Practice." Applying this limiter allows you to limit results to:

  • Articles from evidence-based practice journals
    • ACP Journal Club
    • Clinical Evidence
    • Evidence-based Mental Health
    • Evidence-based Nursing
    • Evidence report/Technology assessment
  • Articles about evidence-based practice
  • Research articles (including systematic reviews, clinical trials, meta analyses, etc.) from The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews
  • Commentaries on research studies (applying practice to research)

What are “research articles” in CINAHL databases?

When applied, your search is limited to articles that are about a research study or examination of subject matter that uses investigational or experimental techniques. A research study includes data collection, subject selection, methodology, discussion of results, and application, if any. Generally speaking, it is better to limit your search results to Peer-Reviewed articles and ignore this search box.

What is a meta synthesis?

This publication type value is applied to articles that indicate the presence of a qualitative methodology that integrates results from a number of different, but inter-related studies. In theory you should retrieve results for the meta synthesis when you select the EBM filter.

How does the human limiter work?

The human limiter applies only to records that represent research studies that use human subjects/participants.

What is the definition of peer review for the CINAHL products?

Generally speaking, peer review means that there has been some degree of peer review process for the publication.

  • Blind peer review (when either the reviewer or the author does not know the identity of the other)

  • Double-blind peer review (when neither the author nor the reviewer knows the identity of the other)

  • Expert peer review (when journal articles are reviewed by selected experts in that field)

  • Editorial board peer review (when journal articles are reviewed by the editorial board)

  • CINAHL may also consider the title peer-reviewed if the title is viewed as such by the publisher.

What are the search strategies used by CINAHL Clinical Queries?

Clinical Queries allow the user to limit searches using specific search strategies to aid in retrieving scientifically sound and clinically relevant study reports indexed in CINAHL databases.

Searches can be refined using specific search strategies designed to produce results in 5 research areas:

  • Therapy
  • Prognosis
  • Review
  • Qualitative
  • Causation (Etiology)

As research may require different emphasis, three strategies are provided for each area:

  • High Sensitivity – the broadest search to include ALL relevant material. It may include less relevant materials.
  • High Specificity – the most targeted search to include only the most relevant result set, may miss some relevant materials.
  • Best Balance – retrieves the best balance between Sensitivity and Specificity.

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