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MongoDB find Method: Introduction & Examples

In this article, we’ll go through the basics of MongoDB find, the method used to fetch a document from a MongoDB collection.

We’ll go through a few query examples using Studio 3T and the Customers dataset, which is an entirely faked list of customers.

What is MongoDB find?

The find() method in MongoDB selects documents in a collection or view and returns a cursor to the selected documents. It has two parameters: query and projection.

  • the first ‘query‘ or filter parameter specifies the search
  • the second optional ‘projection’ parameter specifies what parts of each matching document are returned

Three ways to build find() queries in Studio 3T

For writing and building db.collection.find() queries, we’ll be using Studio 3T’s IntelliShell with query auto-completion in our examples.

You can use the MongoDB find method in Studio 3T's IntelliShell, the built-in mongo shell that autocompletes queries down to field names

If you don’t know the MongoDB Query Language, you can still build find() queries through a drag-and-drop Visual Query Builder. Simply drag the fields, define the value,  and hit Run.

If you’re fluent in SQL and want to save a bit of typing, Studio 3T also has SQL Query, which lets you use SQL to query MongoDB.

Studio 3T's SQL Query feature lets you use SQL to build MongoDB find queries

Try  IntelliShell, Visual Query Builder, and SQL Query by downloading the latest Studio 3T version.

Import the Customers collection

We’ll be querying the Customers collection, available here as a .json file download. If you have an existing collection, skip ahead to the examples.

Open Studio 3T and connect to your MongoDB database.

Next, open the Import Wizard from the toolbar.

Click on Import from the Global Toolbar

Then, choose JSON as the import format.

Choose JSON as the import format

Click OK.

Click on to add JSON source documents, – to remove them, or the clipboard icon to paste JSON data from the clipboard.

Here we will add our JSON source document, Customers.

Double-click on a cell to type in the target collection. We are naming ours Customers. Note the capital C!

Insertion mode in JSON import

Under the Insertion Mode column, double-click on a cell to choose one of the insertion modes from the drop-down menu.

Click on Execute to run the import. You should see the new collection in the connection tree, on the left.

Choose Save task, Save task as, or Execute from the Import Wizard toolbar

Find() method examples

Now we’re ready to try out examples of the find() method that you can type/paste and edit in IntelliShell.

Let’s open IntellIShell by clicking the icon in the toolbar.

Click on IntelliShell on the toolbar

And try the following queries.

Return all documents in a collection


//returns all documents in the collection

When the query and projection parameters are not specified, the find() method returns all documents in the collection.

Return documents that match the given query criteria

   'Addresses.County': 'Norfolk'

//returns the documents that have an address in the county of Norfolk

This query simply returns the documents that contain an address in the county of Norfolk. There is a filter parameter but no projection is specified so the whole document with all the fields is returned.

Return documents with only the specified fields (projection)

Here we have specified a list of the fields that we want returned as the projection parameter.

   'Addresses.County': 'Norfolk'
}, {
   '_id': 0,
   'Full Name': 1,
   'Addresses.$': 1

The customer may use several addresses at once (work, home, etc.), and he may move about, so we have chosen to just return the matching address (‘Addresses.$’), along with the name of the customer (‘Full Name’). For this query, that is all the data we need, so why retrieve more than necessary?

The projection parameter allows you to specify whether a list of fields or arrays is, or is not, returned.

If you are providing an inclusive list of the data to be returned, you are only allowed to exclude the _id field.

Return documents with multiple matching criteria

What if you want to search in more than one county?

  'Addresses.County': {
    $in: ['Essex', 'Suffolk', 'Norfolk', 'Cambridgeshire']

//customers whose address is in East Anglia

The filter allows more than simple equality with a value to select documents. In this case we’ve listed several values to check for using the $in comparison query operator.

There are several others with fairly obvious meanings, such as $eq (==), $gt (>), $lt (<), $gte (>=), $lte (<=), $ne (!=) and $nin (not in).

There are also the range of logical operators. There are plenty of other MongoDB query and projection operators that allow you to do quite complex filters, but that’s another topic!

Using the cursor methods

The MongoDB find method doesn’t actually return the data despite the fact that, by default, the mongo shell prints out the first twenty rows when it executes the find() method.

It is a cursor to the documents that gets passed back. It holds a reference to the documents that match the query criteria that you pass to the find() method. This allows you to specify what processing you want on the returned data.

There are a number of these cursor methods.


The count() cursor method is useful for returning the number of documents that meet the criteria.

For example, in our customer database:

db.Customers.find({'Addresses.County': 'Norfolk'}).count()

shows how many customers have an address in Norfolk County.


The limit() cursor method limits the number in the result to the value you pass, so that

db.Customers.find({'Addresses.County': 'Norfolk'}).limit(1)

returns just the first customer.


There is also a skip() method so you can easily implement a scrolling window in the application.

  'Addresses.County': 'Norfolk'
}, {
  '_id': 0,
  'Full Name': 1
  'Name.Last Name': 1

As you’ll have noticed, you can stack these methods up and use pretty()

db.Customers.find({'Addresses.County': 'Norfolk'}).limit(1).pretty()

to return the document in an easy-to-read format.

The skip() and limit() methods make little sense without the sort() method because results are best assumed to be unordered otherwise.

The toArray() method is powerful magic, because it creates a JSON array from all the documents specified by the cursor. It is the easiest way to pass results to the application.

MongoDB find() exercises

Follow step-by-step exercises on how to run find statements on Academy 3T, home of our free MongoDB 101 and MongoDB 201 courses. The lesson on The MongoDB find method has you covered.

Updated on March 24, 2021

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  1. At first Thanks for the awesome explanation on find method. I have a query on find method , when I am calling find from java class it’s pulling all documents and eventually my code throwing out of memory exception so how to read data from mongodb in batch manner to avoid memory issues.i tried using batchsize but if you can provide some working snippet it will help.

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