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NURS 7040: Applied Nursing Research - DNP Program: PICOT Search Strategy Example in CINAHL

Key Databases for Searching

Click the links below to access databases. From off-campus, after clicking on most databases, you will be prompted to enter your UTAD credentials to authenticate as a UToledo student.  

The above is a selected list of relevant research databases. To explore all research databases, click here

Organizing and Managing Your References

It is essential to practice good organization and information management skills when conducting a comprehensive literature review. The following tools provide recommended solutions to organize what you find in an efficient and effective manner:

Personal Database Accounts

Databases provide the option for you to create a free account where you can save your literature search results. For more information about how to set up and use a personal database account see the following resources:


5 Literature Review Steps for Getting Started

1. Develop your EBP topic/PICOT question

2. Generate a list of initial search terms to find supporting evidence (use the PICOT Search Strategy Worksheet, for example, to draft your search terms). 

3. Select relevant databases to conduct your search in (see the Key Databases for Searching box in the far left column)

4. Choose one initial database to conduct your first search in. As you search in this first database, take note of any other relevant terminology that you notice in the search results. Add these new terms to your PICOT Search Strategy Worksheet, and refine your search accordingly.

5. Conduct your search in all additional relevant databases you selected in Step 3. 

Video Tutorial: PICOT Search Example in CINAHL

Search Strategy Hints

Strategy Function
Keyword Searching

Similar to "Google-like" searching where the database will retrieve results based on the terms you enter

Does not take into consideration the context of those terms

Typically retrieves several results, although many may not be relevant to the topic

Keyword searching is very flexible and is a good way to begin a search, especially if you are unsure of the correct terminology to use.  As you begin reading through your results, you may notice trends and patterns in terminology that you can then apply and adapt to your search strategy.   

VIDEO TUTORIALS: CINAHL Advanced Searching (applicable to all EBSCO databases)

Subject Heading Searching

A targeted, specific way to search using a database's built-in controlled vocabulary 

Various databases have their own subject headings - i.e. CINAHL Headings in CINAHL and the Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) in MEDLINE.  

Controlled vocabulary subject headings function like a thesaurus and will take into consideration synonyms, abbreviations, and variations in spelling

Typically retrieves fewer results than keyword searching, yet results are oftentimes more relevant  

VIDEO TUTORIALS: CINAHL & MeSH Subject Headings | Browsing Subject Terms (applies to all other EBSCO databases)

Boolean Operators

Boolean operators provide a logical way to combine keyword or subject heading terms using AND, OR, or NOT

"AND" will narrow your search by combining one of more terms together

"OR" will broaden your search by retrieving results on any of the terms you enter 

"NOT" will exclude designated terms from your results 

VIDEO TUTORIALS: CINAHL Advanced Searching (applicable for all EBSCO databases) 


Use of an asterisk * after the root of a word will search for various word endings 

nurs* will find nurse, nurses, nursing

anesth* will find anesthesiology, anesthetist, anesthesiologist 

Phrase Searching

Use of quotes will tell the database to retrieve results with that exact phrase

"Algase Wandering Scale" 


Use of parentheses will group desired search terms together in combination with appropriate Boolean operators

(dementia OR "Alzheimer's disease") AND ("fall prevention" OR "fall risk assessment") 


After conducting a search in a database, you can filter, refine and narrow your search results by applying limiters or filters. 

Options for narrowing your results are often located along the left side of your database search results page. Select appropriate limiters/filters that are relevant to your topic or your information need. 

Common options include publication date, type of article, age group, gender, etc.