Skip to Main Content Home Ask a Librarian

Accessibility and Disability

What is a controlled vocabulary?

Controlled Vocabulary is "a list of standard terms that categorize articles based on their content (such terms will vary from database to database)" (Aromataris and Riitano, 2014). Many, but not all, controlled vocabularies are organized by hierarchies. Depending on the database, when searching a controlled vocabulary term you can choose to "explode" it. Exploding is when you search the selected term and any that fall under it in the hierarchy. 

Citation: Aromataris, E., & Riitano, D. (2014). Systematic Reviews: Constructing a Search Strategy and Searching for Evidence. AJN The American Journal of Nursing114(5), 49.

Suggested Controlled Vocabulary for CINAHL

  • Can explode/does include narrower terms:
    • (MH "Behavioral and Mental Disorders+"): Includes terms like "Intellectual Disability", "Communicative Disorders", "Learning Disorders", and "Mental Disorders Diagnosed in Childhood"
    • (MH "Public Accommodation"): Includes terms like "Job Accommodation" and "School Accommodation"
    • (MH "Persons with Disabilities"): Includes terms like "Children with Disabilities", "Students with Disabilities", and "Employees with Disabilities"
    • (MH "Assistive Technology Devices"): Includes terms like "Wheelchairs+", "Communication Aids for Persons with Disabilities+", and "Limb Prosthesis" 
  • Cannot explode/doesn't include narrower terms
    • (MH "Severity of Disability) OR (MH "Health Services for Persons with Disabilities") OR (MH "Rehabilitation) OR (MH "Disability Management") OR (MH "International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health") OR (MH "Disability Evaluation") OR (MH "Caregiver Attitudes") OR (MH "Attitude to Disability")