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CINAHL Searching: Keywords & Truncation

How to do a Keyword Search

Once you have found a useful subject heading, you can then start doing some keyword searching around the same concept, using the same words, or synonyms, or alternative spelling. Below is how to search by keyword.

Step 1 - clear your search box


Step 2 - take the tick out of the 'Suggest Subject Terms' box. We've already found a subject heading for our falls concept, so at this point of our search, we don't need the tick in the box.


Step 3 - type in your search term, and decide about using truncation (see on the right, in the box called 'Truncation')

Step 4 - choose 'TX-All Text' from the drop-down menu. We are asking CINAHL to search all text, so it will look in article titles, abstracts, and many other fields.

Step 5 - click on 'Search'

Step 6 - repeat steps 1-5 with as many synonyms, alternate spellings etc as you can think of for your concept

Why Use Keyword Searches?

  • Including keywords makes for a more thorough search
  • Keywords are useful when searching synonyms
  • Keywords are also useful when searching different spelling for the same word eg labour vs labor
  • A keyword search is a last resort when you just can't find a useful subject heading to use
  • You may end up with some irrelevant material, but you will also end up with material you haven't found with a subject heading search on its own.


Truncation is another tool that adds to the thoroughness of your search.

If you search for falls as a keyword, your results will include the word falls. However, if you include the truncation symbol * in an appropriate place eg fall*, your results will include fall, falls, falling, fallen etc.