CINAHL - Coverage, Interfaces, Searchability

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EBSCO's interface to CINAHL
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Last Update

  • Updated.jpg 21 July 2017



CINAHL (Cumulated Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature) is available via the Ebsco, Ovid and Proquest interfaces, and indexes nearly 3100 journal titles. (Some nursing content can be searching via Google scholar and PubMed).


CINAHL (known as the Nursing index) is an index to English-language and selected non-English journal articles in nursing, allied health, biomedicine and healthcare. Ella Crandall, Mildred Grandbois and Mollie Sitner began creating a card index of articles from nursing journals in the 1940s. The index was first published as the Cumulative Index to Nursing Literature (CINL) in 1961. The title changed to Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature in 1977 when its scope was expanded to include allied health journals. The index went online in 1984.


CINAHL provides comprehensive coverage of nursing and allied health literature from 1981 to present with more than 2 million records. CINAHL indexes 3100+ journals, selected books, dissertations, audiovisuals, allied and consumer health, biomedicine, alternative therapy and health sciences librarianship. It links to full text for 1300 journals, standards of practice, critical pathways, survey instruments and government publications, indexes for more than 5400 journals. Unique records include legal cases, drug and accreditation and clinical innovations. The controlled thesaurus is unique to CINAHL and the allied health literature. Citations are assigned terms from more than 14,572 main headings, 77 topical subheadings and cross-references.


CINAHL accepts the Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) as a standard vocabulary for disease, drug, anatomical, and physiological concepts; so there is overlap in the two sources. Terms are arranged hierarchically as "trees" to permit specificity from the most general to precise. Each heading includes annotations, tree numbers, scope notes, history notes and qualifiers. To retrieve all references with specific headings and narrower terms, the main heading is exploded (like Medline). In theory, research on a given topic is retrievable using CINAHL headings; however, systematic review require adding keywords to get around indexing limitations. Searches can be qualified with subheadings to improve precision where specific subject headings are the focus, or main descriptor. CINAHL headings are updated annually by subject specialists.

  • Subject Headings: CINAHL® subject headings are used to index the literature contained in the database. These subject headings were developed to reflect the terminology used by nursing and the allied health professionals. CINAHL subject headings follow the structure of the Medical Subject Headings, or MeSH, used by the National Library of Medicine. This structure has been used to develop 14,572 CINAHL subject headings. These subject headings are used to effectively search the database and retrieve literature citations on a specific topic.
  • Subject Coverage: The CINAHL database covers nursing and allied health literature from 1981 to the present.
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