Using Limits to Make a More Relevant Search

Director of Research and Instruction

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Ellen Urton
426 Mullins Library

Using Limits to Make a More Relevant Search

Limiting in Databases 

Most databases will have limits for types of publications, for peer-review, for language, and for dates. This example is in CINAHL, a nursing database that has many good ways to limit your searches. Some other databases won't have the geographic limiter as CINAHL does. Some limiters are related to the discipline of the database, like age groups as a commonplace limiter in the medical or psychological literature. CINAHL, PsycINFO and some others, display their limiters below the search boxes. Some other databases locate their limiters on a sidebar, often on the left side of the search results. 

Link to CINAHL

Put in your search term(s), but don’t hit search yet.

Scroll down to the limits or search options lower on the screen. You’ll see several of the likely limits. I’ve highlighted them, below. You could limit to full-text articles, in English, in peer-reviewed journals, only research articles, and so on. 

capture of limits below the search boxes in CINAHL through Ebsco

Further down, there are dropdown or scrolling menus for a lot of other limiters, including language (a second chance), publication types, a limit for meta-analyses, and more. Because this database is focused on nursing, they allow us to limit to articles that have nurses as authors. CINAHL has geographic limiters- I show USA marked below, to narrow the retrieval set.

capture of the next set of limits in CINAHL, including Meta-synthesis, human subjects, nurses as authors and the geographic limit, which is highlighted.

The last major limits are Age Groups (of patients or subjects studied) and Special Interest (areas of interest withing nursing) and images and page number limits. If you hit search in the live version, the set should be quite relevant, and if you had added an age group and a special interest, the set may also be quite small, as some assignments request. 

more limits in CINAHL, including age groups, Special Interest, PDF full text, and image types.