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NURS 3290: Nursing Research 2 - BSN Program

This guide is designed to assist you with conducting research for your course assignments in NURS 3290: Nursing Research 2

Keywords & Subject Headings: Know the Difference

Your Database Search Assignment requires you to perform both Keyword and Subject Heading searches. 

Keyword searching is a flexible, natural language approach to database searching on a topic. Search results will be retrieved based on the keywords that you enter into the database search boxes.  As you read through your search results, you may begin to recognize additional keywords to use in your search strategy to locate more articles.

To perform a Keyword search in CINAHL and other databases:

  1. Click the Advanced Search link in the database
  2. In the search boxes provided, enter your keywords using appropriate keyword search techniques:
    1. Boolean operators (OR or AND). Synonyms can be combined with OR (i.e. fatigue OR tiredness OR lethargy) and different concepts that you want to search for together can be combined with AND (i.e. cancer AND fatigue)
    2. Truncation. Place an asterisk * after the root of a word to search for variations in that word's ending (i.e. nurs* will find nurse, nurses, or nursing
  3. Hit the Search button

Subject Heading searching is a very focused and precise way to search for articles.  Articles in databases are indexed (or categorized) with subject heading terminology which works like a thesaurus.  If there is more than one way of describing a concept or topic (i.e. hypertension or high blood pressure), the subject heading for that concept will take all of those varieties into consideration - saving you the time of having to experiment with different keywords. For example, the subject heading in CINAHL for Hypertension will find articles that also use the term high blood pressure. In another example, the subject heading in CINAHL for Nurse-Patient Relations will retrieve articles about patient and nurse communication and any other related aspects of that topic. 

To perform a Subject Heading search in CINAHL and other databases:

  1. Follow the guidance and video tutorials at