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I'm currently creating a new Journey in Journey Builder, in a similar way to an existing Journey we have, which was set up last year by a consultant we were working with. I've built many Journeys since, but they've all been very simple ones delivering a handful of emails to one data extension full of people.

This journey's data extension contains a few essential fields - email_address, firstname etc, but a lot of the attributes I'll need are in the parent data extension (from which this one is created via a query).

For a previous journey, a Population was set up, which allowed me to link the journey DE in an attribute set to the master one in the population. However we've now set up 3 different populations for different journeys for different audiences, each with their own population.

I have read that you should not set up more than three populations - so what am I supposed to do for new journeys? I must confess I don't fully understand the function of populations - and I'm not sure I understand attribute groups either.

I suppose my question is - can I set up a journey which sends emails which require data from fields in a separate data extension, using the Lookup Ampscript function, and what are the limitations of doing this?

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Yes you can and need to use the data extension functions in AMPscript or Serverside JavaScript. To do this you need to have one identifying column value (for example the primary key) in the source data extension of your journey which isn't a real limitation in my opinion.

The downside of this approach is, that data not linked in contact builder or available via a population/attribute group isn't usable in decision splits, etc.

If you need to lookup just one value you can use the Lookup-function:

%%=Lookup("PostalCode","City","PostalCode","46016")=%%

If you need data from one or more rows LookupRows, LookupOrderedRows or their case sensitive counterparts are what you need:

LookupRows("ZipCode","City",HomeCity,"State",HomeState)

Additional information can also be found in the Get Started With AMPscript guide which could also be helpful.

Related documentation:

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