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Alabama Virtual Library Overview: Limiters and Expanders


Technique 2: Limiters and Expanders

Another way to hone or narrow your search results is to apply limiters. The most commonly used limiters across are publication (name), publication date, publication type (i.e. magazine, newspaper, etc), language, full-text, and peer-reviewed or scholarly journal. While they may differ slightly, most databases will have at least some combination of the above available in a search options screen.

EBSCO Search Options

Gale Search Options

Using limiters tells the database that you only want results that match your limiter values. For instance, if you search "Heart AND Lung" and limit to a publication date range of January 1, 2019 to December 31, 2019, the database will only retrieve results with both the words heart and lung that were published in 2019. Additionally, if you select "full-text" and "peer-reviewed", you will only retrieve results from academic journals that are available in full-text. If you are uninterested in academic research, you can leave that option unchecked and instead select "Magazine" from the publication type search option to find results from popular sources.

EBSCO databases also include expander options, which may help broaden your search results. These work by widening your search to include words related to your keywords or including the actual text of the full text results in your search. The expanders you can choose are:

  • Apply related words, which expands results to include true synonyms and plurals of your search terms.
  • Also search with the full text of articles, which searches for your keywords within the full text of articles, abstracts, and citation information.
  • Apply equivalent subjects, which uses mapped vocabulary terms to add precision to keyword searches.

All limiters and expanders, if available, are selectable in the search options of a given database.