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NURS-692: Evidence Based Practice 1

Maximize Your Search

An EBP Literature Review requires a systematic search of all existing sources of knowledge on your topic.

You will be expected to search in multiple library databases and resources. Save time by selecting library database collections from the full list of EBSCO or GALE databases to search simultaneously. Consider the subjects or academic disciplines related to your topic and choose library collections accordingly.

Choose Databases in EBSCO from the default "Advanced Search" page:

Example of "Choose Database" in EBSCO products to select multiple databases and search simultaneously.

Most databases contain basic information and abstracts for all journal listings, even if our library does not have access to the full-text. For this program, we do not advise that you limit your search to only what the Spalding University Library has in full-text. Instead, take advantage of our Interlibrary Loan and Metroversity programs to access required materials. 

Search Strategies

In library databases such as CINAHL and Medline, the advanced search options and limiters allow you to narrow your search with various criteria. This can help you identify different levels of evidence according to the source type. 

Efficient Search Strings

Keyword searching is the first step to finding relevant articles on your topic. However, in order to conduct a more comprehensive and efficient search, there are several methods you can use to broaden and narrow your search.

  •  Use AND to specify multiple terms in your search. This will narrow your search by requiring each term to appear somewhere in the full-text of an article. 
  • Use OR to include multiple terms in your search. This will broaden your search by suggesting terms that may appear in the full-text, but articles can include one or the other. 
  • Use NOT to exclude certain terms from appearing somwhere in the full-text of the article to narrow your search. 
  • Use "quotations" to search multiple words as a specific phrase. This will narrow your search by requiring the phrase to appear somewhere in the full-text of the article. 
  • Use an asterisk* to broaden your search by including all terms that begin with a particular prefix.

Ven diagrams of Boolean operators AND, OR, and NOT to broaden or narrow your search. AND highlights the space between two circles. OR includes all spaces of two circles. NOT includes only one side of a circle that does not overlap with the other.


Limit to Peer-Reviewed, Academic Journals

For this class your evidence should be from scholarly, peer-reviewed journals. In most databases, you can limit your results by "Scholarly (Peer-Reviewed) Journals" or "Academic Journals."

CINHAL Source Types, Academic Journals highlighted.

Advanced Search Options

Every database and collection is different, but the advanced search options are usually tailored to the discipline. For EBP Nursing, there may be options to search specifically for Evidence Based Practice, Randomized Controlled Trials, and other standard publication types.


In the advanced search feature in CINAHL, You can limit to research articles, meta-synthesis, Randomized Control Trials, geographic regions, age groups, and many relevant publication types for this assignment. 

Special limiters in CINHAL Complete

Each database and collection will have different pre-set advanced option features. Pay special attention to these sections to find relevant and useful tools in targeting your search. 

Use Subject Headings

If you are looking for a standard method or tool, you can usually target your search by using the phrase as a subject heading. In the advanced search:

Example of searching in an EBSCO database for research method articles by using "Quality Assurance" and using the drop down menu to select "SU Subject Terms"

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