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The CINAHL database: a guide for hospital pharmacists
  1. Mala Mann1,
  2. Michelle Fiander2,
  3. Helen Morgan3
  1. 1Support Unit for Research Evidence, Information Services, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK
  2. 2Cochrane Effective Practice and Organisation of Care (EPOC) Review Group, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (OHRI), Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
  3. 3Support Unit for Research Evidence, Information Services, Cochrane Public Health Review Group, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK
  1. Correspondence to Ms Mala Mann, Support Unit for Research Evidence, Information Services, Cardiff University, Neuadd Meirionnydd, Heath Park, Cardiff CF14 4YS, UK;MannMK{at}

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The Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature (CINAHL) database is an index to literature with a focus on allied health professions as opposed to physicians. This particular focus makes CINAHL a very beneficial resource for searching, ensuring that a wider perspective is obtained when searching for a pharmacy or pharmacological related topic. This article will provide an overview and basic steps of searching in CINAHL using the topic ‘Adverse effects of self-medication in older patients’ as an example.

CINAHL or CINAHL-Plusi is provided to users by the publisher and database provider EBSCO. CINAHL provides indexing to journals from 1981 onwards, while CINAHL Plus includes a wider range of journals and coverage from 1937 onwards. In both instances access to the full text of some articles is available from within the CINAHL database. Users are reminded that full-text articles, if not available from a database (such as CINAHL, PubMed, Medline, Embase, etc), are often freely available either through libraries or publishers’ websites depending on the licensing agreement with the user's institution. Instruction and screen shots in this article will be taken from the EBSCO interface. Detailed search instructions for the EBSCO interface are available in the 38 page User Guideii available at the EBSCO host website; this guide will be referenced throughout this article to provide users with the specific page numbers for instructions.

Advanced or basic search

Upon opening CINAHL most users will be presented with a search screen which is either basic (figure 1) or advanced (figure 2).iii The basic screen offers a single search box while the advanced offers multiple search boxes connected by 'Boolean' operators: AND, OR, NOT. There are pros and cons to each search option, but the advanced screen will offer the novice user an easier way to enter multiple terms and combine …

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