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LibrarySkills@UCL: Searching for information

A guide to search techniques and developing a search strategy for assignments, literature reviews and research.

Limits and filters

Limits or filters can be used to help you to focus your search. Common limits are criteria such as date range, language, or type of material.

Sometimes you can see limit options when you carry out your search, especially if using an Advanced search. More often, limits are available after you have carried out your search and can be applied to your results.

The type of limits available and how to use them varies - make sure you check the help pages for the resource you're using.

Apply limits one at a time, so you can see the effect they are having on your results. Using too many limits might narrow your results too much.

Take care when using limits

Limits can be an effective way to focus your search but there are some cases where you should be careful.

  • Full text: often databases will have a 'full text only' limit. Don't be tempted to select this option. Instead make sure you have accessed the database via the UCL web pages, and use the FindIt@UCL links to check for full text access.
  • Topic: using limits called 'subject area', 'category' or 'topic' can look appealing but it's not always easy to tell how subjects are defined - you might miss some relevant results.

Language bias

Limiting your results to those only published in a particular language is likely to exclude relevant papers and therefore bias your results.

In many databases you can filter or limit by language. However you should consider the wealth of research produced worldwide and available in all languages. It is especially important to avoid this type of bias if you are carrying out a systematic review.

Translating tools

Several online tools are available which can translate blocks of text.