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Evidence Based Practice

Recommended Databases

Searching by Research Methods

CINAHL/MeSH Headings

CINAHL & Medline Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) are controlled vocabularies or thesauri that include a comprehensive list of terms used in the profession. Articles are assignment subject headings by the author or publisher based on content, allowing you to conduct a systematic search of all articles including those terms, instead of relying on keywords alone.  

If you are searching in an EBSCO database collection such as CINAHL, Medline, or both, look for a tab at the top for "CINAHL Subject Headings" or "Subjects." This separate search function will allow you to search for subject headings by keyword. 

Example of findings CINAHL or MeSh Headings in EBSCO at the top navigation under "Subjects"


1. A result list of subject headings with related terms is displayed. Check the box for a subject heading to view available subheadings.


subject term checked with subheadings displayed


2. Check boxes of desired subheadings to add them to your search.

Terms are added to the Search Term Builder box on the right.


subheadings selected - term appears in search box builder


3. Click Browse Additional Terms to add more headings to your search


browse additional terms link


- OR -

Click Search Database to execute the search.


search database button




Using Explode and Major Concept


When you Explode a term, you create a search query that “explodes” the subject heading. The headings are exploded to retrieve all references indexed to that term as well as all references indexed to any narrower subject terms. 

In a database with a tree, such as MeSH or CINAHL Headings, exploding retrieves all documents containing any of the subject terms below the term you selected. In other databases, exploding retrieves all documents containing the selected term, as well as any of its first level of narrower terms. If a plus sign (+) appears next to a narrower or related term, there are narrower terms below it.

Major Concept

When you select Major Concept for a term, you create a search query that finds only records for which the subject heading is a major point of the article. Searches are limited with specific qualifiers (subheadings) to improve the precision of the search, and limited to major subject headings indicate the main concept of an article.

Combining Explode and Major Concept

If you select both Explode and Major Concept, you retrieve all references indexed to your term (and its narrower terms) and all articles for which the subject heading is a major point of the article.

EBSCO Help: Using CINAHL/MeSH Headings

Finding the Evidence Part 3: PubMed