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Undergraduate Nursing Research Guide

Searching Basics

Articles are published in journals. Journals used to come out in physical issues that we received in print form in the mail. Now, they're published in databases. We often skip seeing the journal when we search in a database. I like to explain it like this:

Netflix is the database, The Witcher is the journal, and Season 2, Episode 1 is the article.

We look for specific shows on different streaming services (Hulu, Disney+, HBO, etc) because they each have something different to offer -- though sometimes there's an overlap. This is similar to how academic databases work. We choose subject-specific databases because the content we're looking for is going to be found there.

Below are a couple of database options for you to start with when doing general nursing research. If your topic becomes multidisciplinary, feel free to reach out on chat or make an appointment with a librarian to get database suggestions.

Want to know more about the ins and outs of journal articles? Check out this additional information on journal articles in the Information Literacy Basics tutorial. 

Searching the Quick Search

This video will show you how to use the search box on the library's homepage to start your research. Text instructions are located on the link on the left titled "Find Articles with the Quick Search".

This next video goes further in-depth with strategies to really refine your search for the best possible search results.

Searching CINAHL Plus

This video will show you some strategies for searching the nursing and allied health database. You will also see how to request an item that that library doesn't have immediate access to in this video.

This next video walks you through some more specific strategies for refining your search results and finding the best articles for your assignment.

Search Strategy Example

Searching Academic Search Complete and CINAHL Complete

Academic Search Complete and CINAHL Complete are databases provided by EBSCOhost through Cline Library.

Step One:  Identify the topic and consider two to three concepts that directly relate to the topic.  Use the chart below as a guide.


 Prevalence of cardiovascular disease among rural communities


cardiovascular disease

prevalence rural communities

Consider alternative keywords for the concepts

Cardiovascular disease


Rural Communities


heart attack

myocardial infarction

rural area


cardiac arrest

heart failure





Step Two:  Develop a search strategy using the keywords and/or phrases.  Less is more; start with a few keywords and if necessary build a more comprehensive search.  See search tips below. 


Step Three: Recognize that databases have similar features, such as “limiters” or ways to narrow the search results (e.g., date of publication, peer-reviewed journal, and full-text).   Apply limiters if necessary.

If you are being asked to include scholarly articles, consider limiting your results to scholarly, peer-reviewed. 


Step Four: View the results.  If the search strategy did not return any results try changing the keywords. 

Search tips for Academic Search Complete and CINAHL Complete (EBSCOhost)



Quotation marks

Exact phrase searching


Combine terms


Omit or ignore a term


Expand the search to include either or both terms


Structure a Boolean (AND, OR, NOT) search


Truncate a term or complete a phrase


Wildcard used to replace a single letter


Wildcard used for alternate spellings

N and a number

Finds terms near x terms

W and a number

Finds terms within x terms in order

Try not to use punctuation

Databases ignore these unless it is a question mark

Try not to use stop words

Databases ignore these