Download the CINAHL Cheat Sheet Basics and CINAHL Cheat Sheet Advanced.

  • Saving a search
    • To save searches in CINAHL create an EBSCO account by clicking on the “Sign In” link in the upper-right corner of the screen. Then, click on “Search History” underneath the search boxes and “Save searches/Alerts.”
    • Create an alert within CINAHL to receive updates on a topic. Follow the same steps for saving a search, but choose "Alert" instead.
  • Keyword search
    • Keyword terms can be single words or phrases.
    • Use quotes around all phrases to ensure that the phrase is searched instead of each word individually. Example: “hand washing”.
  • Controlled vocabulary search using CINAHL Headings
    • CINAHL has a thesaurus that you can use to access its controlled vocabulary. Think of these headings as a standardized set of terms used to bring consistency to finding specific articles and information.
    • Click on the CINAHL Headings link on the top of the page.
    • When searching for controlled vocabulary in the thesaurus check out the scope notes. These are found to the right of each term and provide a definition of the term.
  • Combining terms with Boolean operators 
    •  AND, OR, and NOT are operators used to get refined search results.
      • Use AND to link ideas and concepts where you want to see both ideas or concepts in your search results.

      • Use OR between similar keywords or synonyms

      • Use NOT to exclude specific keywords from the search

  • Field tags

    • ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Field tags are used to search a specific record fields in CINAHL. For example, if you are looking for a journal title that has the word Immunology, you can use a field tag. Here are the field tags in CINAHL:

      • TI  Searches the Title field

      • AB Searches the Abstract field

      • AB OR TI  Searches the Abstract field and the Title Field at the same time 

      • AU  Searches the Author field

      • MH  Major and minor headings

      • MM  Major headings

  • Truncation & wildcard searching

    • Use an * at the root of a word to find multiple endings. For example: ethic* will return ethics, ethically, etc.

    • Use also use a ? as a wildcard to search for letter variants within a word. For example: wom?n finds women and woman.

CINAHL Tutorials




Download the PubMed Cheat Sheet Basics and PubMed Cheat Sheet Advanced.

Please note that the New PubMed now the default PubMed as of May 2020. See NCBI's PubMed User Guide detailing the changes.

  • Saving a search
    •  Create an NCBI account by clicking on the My NCBI link in the upper-right corner of the screen
    • Once you complete a search, go to advanced, actions, "Save to MyNCBI".
  • Basic searching
    • The New PubMed is supposed to work like a Google search. In other words, for basic searching, type in your terms or phrase in plain language. No Boolean operators are required for basic searching.
  • Controlled vocabulary - Medical Subject Headings (MeSH)
    • MeSH is assigned to PubMed records for more precise and consistancing when searching.
    • These terms are updated annually to reflect changes in terminology.
    • MeSH can be searched from the MeSH Database
    • Terms are arranged hierarchically by subject categories with more specific terms arranged beneath broader terms. MeSH terms in PubMed automatically include the more specific MeSH terms in a search. This is called "explode."
    • Use the PubMed Search Builder on the right side of the screen to add your selected MeSH term to the box, and click Search.
  • MeSH - explaining "Explode" and "Major Headings"
    • Explode will search with all narrower headings beneath the main heading you have chosen.
      • PubMed will default to explode any MeSH term you search.
    • No Explode will only search for your chosen MeSH term without including any of the narrower headings in the MeSH hierarchy.
      • You can select this option from the MeSH record.
    • Major Heading will narrow your search to only find MeSH terms listed as a major topic of an article. You can select this option from the MeSH record.
      • Major headings are shown in the article record with an asterisk.
  • Field tags
    • Use field tags to specify in which field the database queries for the search term.
    • Type the search term and then the field tag in brackets. For example: Pilates[tiab] searches for pilates in the title and abstract.
    • Two common tags are
      • Text Words [tw] – Includes all words and numbers in the title, abstract, other abstract, MeSH terms, MeSH Subheadings, Publication Types, Substance Names, Personal Name as Subject, Corporate Author, Secondary Source, Comment/Correction Notes, and Other Terms.
      • Title/Abstract or [tiab] – Words and numbers included in the title, collection title, abstract, and other abstract of a citation. 
    • See a full list of PubMed tags here.