Applying limits to your search

As you refine what you are searching for, it is important to determine what you are not searching for. Setting limits on your search is a way to further refine it to make your results more specific and relevant. Setting limits is an important part of your search strategy. The advantage of setting limits is that search results will be more specific and relevant.

Databases provide a range of limits that can be selected and applied to your search. These limits may vary from one database to another, so familiarise yourself with those available in the database you have chosen for your search. For example, Embase has a particular focus on Drugs, therefore its limits provide very detailed ways to refine searches around such things as routes of administration and drug therapies. By comparison, the Maternity and Infant Care database offers specific limits within the domains of labour and delivery, breast feeding, and more.

Common limits include:

  • Language
  • Date of publication
  • Type of publication (such as journal articles, book reviews, dissertations, reports etc)
  • Type of study (such as randomised controlled trial, cohort study, etc.)
  • Gender
  • Age group
  • Full text
  • Abstract

Setting limits in practice will be covered in more detail in Module 3.

Beware of limiting your search to Full Text only!

By selecting Full Text as a limit, you may be excluding potentially useful articles just because they are not available in full text in the database. However, there are a number of ways to access full text for free if it is not available on CIAP, including requesting the article (often referred to as Request the Article or Document Delivery) through your local library.