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Health Sciences Literature Searching: Subject Headings in CINAHL

A guide to help you search the Health Sciences literature

Jump to:

Use the following links to jump to a chosen step in the process of using subject headings to narrow your search:

1: CINAHL Headings

2: Browsing headings

3: Term list

4: Term selection

5: Refining your search


Subject headings in CINAHL allows you to search the database more effectively and narrow down the parameters of your search.

1: CINAHL Headings

The CINAHL Headings link is at the top of every page in CINAHL. Click it to find CINAHL’s subject headings.


2: Browsing Headings

Let's say "teen pregnancy" is the concept we entered into CINAHL's subject headings search bar.

3: Term list

CINAHL displays a list of related terms. “Use” indicates the closest match to the term entered.


The terms beneath "Use" are not exact matches. They are related terms that can help you search for similar topics.


Do not click on the name of the subject heading you want. It will not select that term for your search. Instead, it expands the vocabulary term tree.

4: Selecting your term and searching

Click the box next to the controlled vocabulary term you like.


To finish your search, click the green "Search Database" button.


New topics or articles may not come up because subject headings take time to develop.

How do you refine subject headings?

If you still receive too many search results, you can click here to refine your subject heading search further.

Subject Guide

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David Nolfi


If you're confused about using CINAHL, look for icons that are shaped like question marks or thought bubbles for more information.

You can also Ask A Librarian any time of day for help.