Search strategies, keyword searches, and subject searches can help you find articles on a specific topic. What happens when you want your results to match certain other criteria, like being published in the past five years, or coming from a refereed or peer-reviewed journal? What if you want to focus your search to only newspaper articles or book chapters?
Criteria like these can't be easily worked into a search strategy. Many databases offer special features called limits that can help you restrict your search and get the kinds of articles you need. Limits take the materials found on your topic and filter them according to your specifications. For example, you can limit your search to materials published after a certain date.
While every database is different, some limits are common to many:
- date of publication: retrieves only articles published before, after, or on certain dates.
- magazine/journal title: lets you enter a periodical title from which you want all of your results to come.
- refereed/peer-reviewed journals: retrieves only articles from the more scholarly journals that have been reviewed by subject experts before publication.
- language: retrieves only articles written in a particular language, such as English, or excludes articles written in languages other than English.
- material type: common in databases that index books, chapters, newspapers, and materials other than journal and magazine articles, this limit retrieves only the type of material you select, such as journal articles or book chapters.
- full-text: retrieves only articles that include the full-text online. Note: very few databases include the full-text of all articles.
The example below shows how some of these limits look in an EbscoHost database. Usually check boxes and pull-down menus are used to set limits.
Be sure to check the database's "help" section for more tips on using limits. Some specialized databases offer additional limits that can help with your search. For additional assistance, see our Help With the Online/Fulltext Databases page.
In the next section we'll learn about what you can do if you retrieve too few or too many results with your search strategy.