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Finding Research Instruments

What is CINAHL?

CINAHL is the primary database used for research in nursing and allied health literature.

Important Definitions


  • searchable research tool that includes records about a wide range of sources, primarily articles


  • collection of information about a single item, usually an article, within a database; includes several fields


  • section of a record that provides a specific piece of information about the item described (the title, the author, the abstract, etc.)

Truncation (*)

  • the star or asterisk key tells the database to look for any ending of a word; one example: searching for measure* in a database would find the words measure, measures, and measurement

Searching By Topic

To find instruments about your research topic, use keywords about it in one or more of the search boxes. In the final box, try using this string of words: test* OR measure* OR survey* OR questionnaire* OR scale* OR batter* OR inventor* OR checklist* OR instrument* OR pretest* OR posttest* OR interview*. In the drop-down menu next to that search box, choose AB Abstract to search only the Abstract field.

searching by topic example 1

The full name of an instrument often (but not always) appears in the Instrumentation field of a CINAHL record.

instrumentation field

To locate records in which the instrument itself appears in the article, put questionnaire/scale in one of the search boxes and choose PT Publication Type from the drop-down menu.

questionnaire publication type

There are also a few Research Instrument Records in CINAHL. These include the name of the instrument, some basic information about it, and how to obtain it. You can narrow any search to these records by search for research instrument limited to the PT Publication Type field.

research instrument publication type

Searching By Title

If you know the specific name of your instrument, put it in quotation marks in the search box, then choose IN Instrumentation from the drop-down menu beside the search box. That will force CINAHL to search only the Instrumentation field for that name.

instrumentation by title

If you aren't sure of the exact title, don't use quotes. Instead, search for words you know are likely to be included in the name, still searching the Instrumentation field.

instrumentation by keyword

Searching For Evaluations

CINAHL offers several subject headings related to instrument evaluation. They include:

  • Instrument Validation
  • Reliability and Validity

There are also a number of other, more specific headings under Reliability and Validity referring to things like Construct Validity and Internal Consistency.

There are several ways to search CINAHL headings. To search for a word, such as validity, within a heading, put that word in the search box, then change the drop-down menu to MW Word in Subject Heading; if you get a large number of irrelevant results, try MJ Word in Major Subject Heading instead, which requires the word to be in a heading that describes one of the most important ideas in the article.

validity or reliability search