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Finding Clinical Guidelines

There is another technique to find guidelines in CINAHL by combining keyword and subject heading searches. Follow the steps below.

Copy the following keyword search string and paste it into the first search box in CINAHL:

guideline* OR protocols OR "practice guideline*" OR "clinical practice guideline" OR "best practice guideline*" OR standard* OR "clinical standard*" OR "evidence-based practice guideline*"


After you paste the keyword string into CINAHL, Select "Title" from the drop-down menu on the right.


Click the "clear" button to empty out the search box:

Enter the word "guideline" in the search box. Click the "suggest subject headings" box. Click search.

Click the box next to the subject term "Practice Guideline". Click the "search database" button.

You can now see your results for the subject heading search you just did:

Click the "clear" button to empty out the search box as you did earlier in the search. (See above).


Next, search for the subject heading for evidence-based practice guidelines.

Click the box next to the "Nursing Practice, Evidence-Based" option. Click "Search Database"



Notice your subject heading appears in the search box and the search returned over 12K results.


Click the "Search History" button:





Combine your searches by clicking the "Select All" button. Click "Search with OR".



CINAHL has now combined all of your searches into one search:


We need to narrow down the results of your first combined search to those you are looking for. To do this, you will need to run some additional keywords, subject headings, and combined searches. 

Recommendations for searching:

  • Try searching for the clinical specialty area your guideline would fall into.
  • You can also try searching for nursing interventions, disease processes, or population to narrow this even further.

Now, you will enter keywords for the specialty you are interested in into the search box and click search.:

Click the "clear" button to empty out the search box as you did earlier in the search. (See above).

Run your subject heading search for the specialty:

Click the box next to the appropriate subject term, then click "Search Database":

Join your keyword and subject heading searches together by clicking the boxes next to the searches you just ran and click "Search with OR".


CINAHL has now combined these searches for you:

Clear your search boxes out by clicking the clear button.

Now you will combine all of your searches together by clicking the boxes next to the previously combined searches and clicking "Search with AND".

Your combined searches now appear in CINAHL:

Take a moment to look at the first page of results to see if what you are getting is relevant so far by clicking "View Results":

The results of this search thus far contain over 22K results. To narrow this further, you can apply some limiters by clicking the "Show More" link located on the left edge of your screen:

Enter your date range, click on the "English Language" limiter, then click search:

You can see that the results are dramatically reduced from the previous search:

If your results contain more items than you can reasonably screen, try adding some additional combined searches by repeating the steps we just walked through. You can try a nursing intervention like care of a device (example: Tracheostomy care). 

You can also try adding some additional limiters for population, age, sex, etc. 

  • Adding too many limiters may reduce your results to zero. If that happens, clear your limiters and add them back in one at a time until you get a manageable subset.