Search strategies for identifying qualitative studies in CINAHL

Qual Health Res. 2007 May;17(5):705-10. doi: 10.1177/1049732306294515.


Nurses, allied health professionals, clinicians, and researchers increasingly use online access to evidence in the course of patient care or when conducting reviews on a particular topic. Qualitative research has an important role in evidence-based health care. Online searching for qualitative studies can be difficult, however, resulting in the need to develop search filters. The objective of this study was to develop optimal search strategies to retrieve qualitative studies in CINAHL for the 2000 publishing year. The authors conducted an analytic survey comparing hand searches of journals with retrievals from CINAHL for candidate search terms and combinations. Combinations of search terms reached peak sensitivities of 98.9% and peak specificities of 99.5%. Combining search terms optimized both sensitivity and specificity at 94.2%. Empirically derived search strategies combining indexing terms and textwords can achieve high sensitivity and high specificity for retrieving qualitative studies from CINAHL.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Humans
  • Information Storage and Retrieval / methods*
  • Internet*
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Qualitative Research*