Nursing & Health Sciences

Useful Article Databases

There are many database useful for topics in Community Health.  CINAHL is one, but don't forget to try others, especially if you're not finding what you need in CINAHL. 

Troubleshooting Searches

Too few articles:

  • Check for typos and spelling. Consider using both American and British spellings (eg. behaviour or behavior).
  • Remove long phrases.
  • Make sure you're using a database that is likely to include information on your topic.
  • Try using other synonyms and alternate words joined by the Boolean Operator 'OR' (e.g. aboriginal or indigenous or First Nations).
  • Check your Boolean logic.  Are you using 'AND' when you should be using 'OR'?
  • If you have found at least one good article, look at the references of this article to find other related articles OR use the 'Find citing' or 'Find related' buttons when available in the databases.

Too many articles:

  • Add another concept to your searching using the Boolean operator 'AND'.
  • Add Limits (e.g. Peer Reviewed, Date of Publication, Language, Publication Type, etc.).
  • Check your Boolean logic. Are you using 'OR' when you should be using 'AND'?
  • When Keyword searching, try searching just in the Title field. This is not recommended for all searches, as you will eliminate relevant articles that don't have those keywords in the title, but it will likely find a few articles to get you started.
  • If you're searching in a database that covers all subjects (e.g. Academic Search Elite, Web of Knowledge), look for a database that is subject specific.

Keyword Searching Tips

Keyword searching - With a keyword search you look for a word, no matter where that word appears. If you like, you can specify that the word be in a particular field (e.g. the title, author, or subject), but it can be in any position (beginning, middle, or end).

  • Think of other words which express the same concepts as those you're looking for.  Keep in mind that the system searches for the exact letters you type, and not the general ideas they express. The system doesn't think. So you have to plan for single and plural, more specific and more general terms, nouns, adjectives, and verbs, etc.

    For example, for the topic 'Community programs for the prevention of social isolation in seniors in Canada'', keywords to consider may include:
Social Isolation
older adults
older persons
  • To search for a phrase many databases require quotations marks around the words. Otherwise, the database assumes an AND between the words and will search for them seperately. Keep in mind every database is different so you should check the HELP section to see how that database searches phrases.

    Eg. "social isolation"
  • Truncation and wildcards are used to find variations of words.

    Truncation will find any ending for the root of a word. The truncation symbol in most journal databases is the asterisk *.

    E.g. program* will find program or programs or programmes

    Wildcards are used within a word, to represent any letter. In CINAHL the wildcard symbol is #. 

    E.g. p#ediatric will find pediatric or paediatric
  • Combining Keywords

When you use AND, you are specifying that both terms must be found in every item found

E.g. program* and "social isolation" and elder* and canad*

When you use OR, you are specifying that items have either of the terms, but not necessarily both. Use an OR between synonymous or similar terms for a concept.

E.g. elder* or "older adults" or aged

Some databases provide search forms (usually in an Advanced search screen) so that you don't need to type in AND or OR. For those that don't, you need to place parentheses around those terms that have OR between them.

E.g. (program* or intervention*) and ("social isolation") and (elder* or "older adults" or aged) and (canad* or ontario* or toronto*)

Narrowing your results

Check the database for ways to limit your results to:

  • Language – e.g. English
  • Publication Type e.g. Empirical study, case study
  • Scholarly articles/Peer Reviewed articles
  • Date range

Check the record where your search terms matched. The best matches for topics are in fields like Subject or Title. Search specific fields if there is an Advanced or Expert search option.

Use Subject Headings or Descriptors if available to increase the relevancy of your results

Add another concept to your search using the Boolean operator “AND”

Getting the Full-Text

Sometimes the database you are searching also provides full text journals. In this case you may see below or next to the citation a 'Full-Text' link to the article.

If you do not see a Full-Text link, this does not always mean we don't have the article. It may be available from another source. In this case, to determine if Trent has the full-text of an article, click on the GetIt!Trent icon. This icon can be seen near each citation in a database.

Note: If you see the notation below a citation, “ Trent Library does not have this journal”, please ignore as it is not always accurate. GetIt! Trentwill be able to better tell you if we have the journal.

If an article is not available, you can request an InterLibrary Loan (ILL) through RACER. Keep in mind articles via ILL are not available overnight, so this service is only useful if you have enough time to receive the article before your project is due. We recommend that you allow 7-10 days. For more information and to register for an account please go to the RACER web site.

CINAHL Search Examples

Below are examples of how to input a search strategy for the topic, "Community programs for the prevention of social isolation in seniors."

Note the selections made under Limit your results

Screenshot of keyword search in CINAHL

This search produced almost 300.  The following is just one of several relevant articles found. 

Screenshot of citation in results

You can use the information in this citation to develop a slightly different search strategy.  Notice the important kewords social isolation and loneliness in the Title and Subject fields.  Instead of doing a keyword search in any field, try selecting one of these fields from the drop down menu to refine your search (see image below).   Selecting 'Exact Major Subject Heading' will retrieve articles where social isolation or loneliness are the main topic of the article. 

Screenshot of keyword search in CINAHL

Notice, keywords for the concept of seniors is not included in the search strategy this time.  In CINAHL you can limit your results by age group in the Refine Results menu on the left-hand side of the screen.

Screenshot of Refine Results menu in CINAHL

To find Canadian content, add a row with keywords: canad* or ontario* or toronto* or saskatchewan....etc.  Keep in mind, this can significantly narrow the search and there may simply not be any Canadian research on your topic. 


There is no one right way to do a search.  Try different combinations of keywords and fields, and different databases.

Newspaper article searching tips

There are several places to find recent newspapers articles. Newspaper websites sometimes provide access, but full-text is not always available or limited to just that day or week. The library subscribes to several databases that include full-text newspaper articles. Some of the best ones for finding Canadian newspapers include:

  • CBCA - Indexes Canadian journals and newspapers, including scholarly and popular titles
  • CPIQ - Indexing of nearly 700 Canadian periodicals (English and French) with full-text articles from 240 Canadian periodicals. Covers journals, magazines, and newspapers.

See a complete list of databases for newspapers here..  


In this search I selected the specific field of Document title-TI.  I did this because the first time I executed the search I received over 15,000 citations.  This is too many too look through.  After revising the search strategy, I only had 50 plus citations to look through.  Often, but not always, the most important words will be in the title or abstract of an article.  Searching only within one of these fields can help to refine the search, improving the relevancy of the results.  It doesn't always work, as authors can sometimes be very 'creative' with titles, but it's a good start. 

Note: because this in not just a newspaper database, under Source Type, Newspapers was selected.

Screen shot of CBCA newspaper article search