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Occupational Therapy - Dallas

Occupational therapy research guide for TWU Dallas students, faculty and staff.


CINAHL (Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health) is an EBSCO host database containing more than 1,400 full- text and 5,400 indexed journals. It features peer-reviewed articles and dissertations, as well as evidence-based practice care sheets.

How Do I...?

One of the best features of CINAHL is how intuitive and easy it is to use. The opening screen consists of three sections:

Search Fields

This section has search boxes for terms to be entered. On the left, you can add terms together using Boolean operators; on the right you can select what fields you wish to search. (Read through the Search Skills page in this guide for more on field searches and Boolean operators.)

Search Options

Screen grab of CINAHL landing page showing search options

  • Boolean/Phrase = Allows Boolean searching and phrase searches 
  • Find all my search terms = Auto AND all search terms entered
  • Find any of my search terms = Auto OR all search terms entered
  • Smart text finding = Copy and paste / write a sentence or a paragraph into the search field for results. Smart text will analyze the text  for relevant keywords and conduct a search

Limit Your Results

Screen grab of CINAHL limiters like Full Text, English Language, Peer-Reviewed resources, etc.

The limiter options are used to limit results by specific criteria, e.g., to certain publication years, English language results, type of publication, etc.

You can also select "Full Text" if you want to see only those results that have full text, BUT, doing this means you are missing on all of the entries that are citations only, some of which might lead to your perfect article. You can always search for the article title in TWUniversal to see if we have access to the article through another database; if we don't, it can always be requested through Interlibrary Loan.

  1. Go to the CINAHL Subject Headings tab.

Screen grab of where to select CINAHL Subject Headings, in the menu at the top of the page

  1. Enter one search term only (this type of search will be built one term at a time). For the options below the search box,
  • Term Begins With = Displays the terms in alphabetical order:
  • Term Contains = The term searched for appears first, followed by terms displayed in alphabetical order:
  • Relevancy Ranked = The exact match for the term appears first followed by terms displayed in order of relevance.
  1. Select the most appropriate choice from the search results.

Screen grab of subject headings in CINAHL related to the heart

  1. When you select your subject heading, another list of suggested subheadings will appear. Check the boxes of any desired subheadings if you want to be more specific in your search.
  2. As you select terms on the left, the subject headings are added to the Search Term Builder box on the right of your screen.

Using the Explode and Major Concept features

These options are both checkboxes next to the subject heading(s) you've chosen.

  • When you "Explode" a term, CINAHL looks at every subject heading and narrower subject term that is indexed to the original term. 
  • "Major Concept" finds only records for which the subject heading is a major point of the article. 

Running Your Search

  1. To add more terms to your search, go to the bottom of the screen and select Browse Additional Terms.
  2. When the search is fully built and you are ready, click "Search Database" to execute the search.
  1. Once you have run a search in CINAHL, click on the title of the article for which you'd like to see similar articles.
  2. On the left hand side, click on "Find Similar Articles."

Screen grab of article detail in CINAHL; link for Find Similar Results is on the left and circled

  1. CINAHL will use its smart text algorithm to analyze the text and return results based on that text.

CINAHL offers evidence-based care sheets — concise summaries of many conditions and their treatment. To search for these exclusively, click on the "Evidence-Based Care Sheets" tab at the top of the screen.

Screen grab of CINAHL top menu with Evidence-Based Care Sheets circled

You can browse through all of their EBP care sheets or enter a search term to find a specific topic.

Screen grab of CINAHL Evidence-Based Care Sheets topics

These care sheets give an overview of a condition (What We Know), as well as common treatment approaches for healthcare providers (What We Can Do).

Single Title

  1. Select the "Export" icon to the right of the resource information.

Screen grab of CINAHL article detail page with Export circled in list of tools on right

  1. Select "Direct Export to RefWorks" from the Export Manager menu.

Screen grab of export options in CINAHL, including direct export in RIS, citations in XML, and direct export to RefWorks

  1. Click on "Yes, export to the newest version of RefWorks" in the newly opened window.
  2. Sign into RefWorks, if necessary.
  3. Choose the folder where you'd like to save the citation, and click on "Import."

Multiple Citations

  1. Select the article you wish to save to RefWorks by clicking on the folder icon to the right of the citations in your search results (see figure 1). You can also click on "Add to folder" on the article detail page.
  2. The articles you have select will be stored in a folder (see figure 2). Click on this folder when you have all the articles you wish to select.

Screen grab of search results in CINAHL with Folder icon circled to the right of each title

  1. In the stored folder, reselect the articles you want to export to RefWorks and click on the Export icon to the right.

Screen grab of Folder in CINAHL with option to select items for printing, email or exporting

  1. This will take you to the same Export Manager menu as shown above.
  2. Select either "Direct Export in RIS Format" or "Direct Export to RefWorks." Note: The more citations you're exporting to RefWorks, the better it will be if you download an RIS file to upload to RefWorks.
  3. If you choose the "Direct Export to RefWorks," the directions are the same as a single article export, above.
  4. If you choose the "Direct Export in RIS Format," this will create a file (which by default will save to your computer's Downloads folder). You will now need to upload the saved file to RefWorks.

In RefWorks

  1. Click on the "Add+" icon.
  2. Click on "Import references."
  3. Click on "Select a file from your computer" and find your upload file in your Downloads folder.
  4. Click on "Import" to start loading the citations into RefWorks.
  1. Create a personal account by clicking "Sign in" at the top of the page.
  2. Use the link to "Sign up" and set up your profile. If you already have an account, simply log in.  
  3. Enter your search.
  4. Click on the "Share" button located above the search results.
  5. Click on the link for "Email Alert."
  6. On the pop-up screen that appears you can set up how frequently to receive alerts on the search you are saving. 
  7. To access your saved searches in the future, click on the "Folder" icon located next to the "Sign in"/"Sign out" icon. Click on "Saved Searches" located on the left hand side of the page.
  8.  The retrieved search or alert can either be rerun, edited, or deleted.