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SPH511 Research Skills Guide: Working with Limiters

Using Limiters

  • In Subject searching, our search – even as a subject search – got hundreds of results. What else can we do to make this search more specific?
  • Most databases allow you to limit your search by various criteria. You can usually apply these limiters either at the time the search is run, or after you have got your results.


Some limiters are available in most online databases. For example:

  • Articles with full-text
  • Date of publication.

Some limiters are available in some databases but not others. For example:

  • Peer-reviewed [If you don’t know what “peer-reviewed” means, please see the page in this guide on Is it Peer-Reviewed? ]
  • English language.

Some limiters are specific to a database, because they relate to the particular nature of the content of that database. For example, in CINAHL, you can limit your search to particular types of articles. These article types relate specifically to health/medical journal articles.

The limiters appear in the Limit your results panel. Here is as much of that panel that can be shown in a screen-shot :

  • There are limiters for all sorts of things. You can activate them either by
    • ticking a box (eg Research Article; Meta-Synthesis; Randomized Controlled Trials); OR
    • entering data (eg Date of Publication); OR
    • choosing from a drop-down menu (eg Publication Type > Systematic Review; Publication Type > Meta-analysis).
  • Here’s the Limiters screen, with a Publication Type of Systematic Review selected:

  • In the Publication Type drop-down, there are no fewer than 83 options! – everything from Anecdote to Website!
  • Note #1: After you have selected a limiter (or limiters), you need to click on the Search button to run the new search.
  • Note #2: Whenever you click on the Advanced Search link, below the 3 search boxes, you will see all the limiters. But every time you do this, any limiters that you have previously selected will be cleared. On the other hand, once you have selected a limiter, it will keep affecting your searches until you click on Advanced Search again!

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