CINAHL Complete

Trocaire College Libraries

What is the CINAHL Complete Database Guide?

This guide will show you how to use CINAHL Complete to find journal articles for your assignments. CINAHL Complete provides access to literature in nursing and 17 allied health disciplines from 1937 to present. CINAHL Complete indexes over 5,000 journal in the nursing field and health related fields. It also offers access to full-text and abstracted articles, evidence-based care sheets, and more.

Many of the things you learn from this guide can be used in our other library databases. You will be given search strategies, and other helpful hints, for searching in CINAHL Complete before starting your own searching.

Why databases?

The best way to find journal articles for your assignments is to use the library's databases.

While just Googling is quicker, you cannot always verify the accuracy of a website...or worse, you may be asked to pay $$ for limited use of an article you find online that you could be getting free from the library!

Finding CINAHL Complete

To find CINAHL Complete on our website, click on the toolbar and select Research, from the drop-down menu select Resouces and then click on the red button Resources by Subject. Select Nursing to get to the Nursing Page that lists all our databases, guides and contact information for nursing resources.

Scroll down the screen until you reach CINAHL Complete. Then click on "Click here to access CINAHL Complete".

If you are off-campus, you will need to login with your Trocaire network ID and password.

Searching CINAHL Complete

CINAHL Complete defaults to the "Advanced Search" screen. Here you can limit your search with many options:

  • Peer Reviewed - limits search to scholarly journal articles
  • Published Date - limits date range of your search (3 years, 5 years)
  • Any Author is Nurse - limits to Nurse authored articles
  • Publication Type - limits to certain types of articles, such as case studies, care plans, clinical trials and nursing interventions

  • Special Interest - limits to a particular field or subject, such as evidence based practice

You can also limit your search by sex of participant, age group or geographical area.

It is recommended to keep Full Text unchecked because your search results will show all articles available for your topic.

If the article is not in full text, it may be available in other Trocaire databases or through Interlibrary Loan.


Keywords are the words you enter into a database or search engine to find information on a topic. You only want to use the main points of the topic as your keywords.

Keywords are critical for effective database searching. They...

  • help you focus on a topic.
  • help you focus your research.
  • eliminate extraneous articles.
  • are better for Internet searching too.

Keyword Tips

Now some quick search tips when using CINAHL Complete or our other databases:

  • Use academic or professional language when you are conducting research in order to find the most scholarly materials on your topic.
  • Avoid unnecessary words like effect, affect, study, research or journal when searching library databases.
  • Put quotation marks around your words to search as an exact phrase
    • “nursing interventions
  • Use an asterisk to search for words with similar endings.
    • teen* would find teen, teens, teenage, teenager, teenaged.
  • Use a question mark or hashtag symbol to search for similarly spelled words at the same time
    • woman and women (wom#n, wom?n).
    • Databases tend to use the question mark; search engines the hashtag symbol.

Search Tips- Using AND, OR and NOT in Databases

  • Use AND to combine main keywords together.
    • “nursing shortage“ AND hospitals
  • Use OR to search for two words or more that can be used interchangeably.
    • neonate OR infant OR newborn
  • Use NOT to eliminate a word or topic from your search.
    • vaccines NOT autism

Subject Headings

CINAHL Complete has a “controlled vocabulary” to make searching the database easier. Using keywords you need to think of all terms that describe the subject and then use “OR” to get all relevant terms for your search.

Subject Headings are the terms that are assigned to articles by the staff at CINAHL Complete . The Subject Headings are consistently used to describe the same concept, so you don’t need to think of all the terms as in a keyword search.

Using Subject Headings has some advantages:

  • Select your concept as a “major” idea
  • Select subheadings of a Subject Heading
  • Read a scope note that describes the Subject Heading
  • Add other concepts to the Subject Heading.

Click on the link "Using the CINAHL/MeSH" below to view a video demonstration of Subject Heading searching.

Limiting your results

Once you begin searching in CINAHL Complete, you may retrieve 1,000s of articles.

There are ways to limit your search results.
  • Add additional keywords to your search
  • Use the date slider to see only recently published articles
  • Limit by Geography or Language

Abstract or Article? What is a scholarly article?

Once you find an interesting title, click on it to read the abstract.

An abstract is a summary of the journal article. Reading it can help you decide if the article works for your research project.

A journal article contains an abstract, plus the full article and references at the end. There are also often datasets, charts and graphs within the article. Most instructors want you to find scholarly articles for your research. Click here to find out more about what a scholarly article is.

Your instructors want full text journal articles not abstracts.

Full Text

There are two types of full text journal articles in CINAHL Complete:

  • Articles in HTML Full Text look like a webpage. These have great features:
    • a translator from English to another language
    • text-to-speech reading of the article
  • Articles in PDF Full Text look like a scan of the original article in the printed journal.
There are several tools to help you do more with your article.

The most commonly used tools are:

  • Cite (APA, MLA)
  • Print
  • Email
  • Save (home PC, H:drive or flash drive)

If you choose to cite using CINAHL Complete, check your citation against a trusted resource like our Citation Help to make sure it is properly formatted.

360 link

If you see the 360 link, there is only an abstract available for the article in CINAHL Complete.

If you click on the link, it will search all of our other databases for the article. If the article is available in full text in another Trocaire database, you will be redirected to it.

Also, if the article is available full-text on the Internet, the 360 link will list the places you can get the article.

Interlibrary loan

You may also be redirected to a page advising you the article is not available in our databases.

Click on Request an Interlibrary Loan to send us a request to get the article from another college.

Within the ILL Request Form:

  • Enter your contact information
  • Enter the year the article was published
  • Scroll down and press Submit

Most articles are delivered to your Trocaire College email in 2 - 72 hours. If it will take longer than that, we will contact you.

Other Options- What is Evidence-Based Care Sheets and Quick Lessons?

Evidence-Based Care Sheets are summaries on topics which are focused on nursing practices. Theses are helpful in that they give background information and references along with latest evidence, statistics and research. They are full-text and are written by RNs and MDs. These are not considered journal articles.

Quick Lessons are clinically organized nursing overviews of conditions and diseases. Information includes: description/etiology, signs & symptoms, assessment, treatment goals, "red flags" and information for patient's families.
Any questions, ask a librarian!

Updated June 2020