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Online Search Strategies

Truncation and Wildcard

Truncation

Truncation, also known as stemming, uses a character such as asterisk (*) or question mark (?) at the end of a word, which allows you to search for a root form of a word and pick up any ending.

Example: typing teen* will find teen, teens, teenage, teenager, teenagers.

Notes:

  • Be careful not to end the stem or root of a word too early to retrieve too many results. Example: typing cat* will find cat, cats, catalog, catastrophe, catsup, etc.
  • Different databases use different symbols to truncate words. However, most of our popular databases, such as our library catalog (QuickSearch), Academic Search Complete and Access World News (NewsBank) use an asterisk (*) as their truncation symbol. If in doubt, check the "Help" screen for the truncation symbol.
  • Some search engines, such as Yahoo! and Google, automatically use truncation without you having to type a truncation symbol.

Wildcard Symbols

Wildcard symbols can be typed in place of a letter or letters within a keyword if you are not sure of the spelling or if there are different forms of the root word.

Example: wom?n will find both women and woman.

Note: Again, check the Help or Tips links available on most library databases and Internet search engines to verify the wildcard symbol that should be used - usually an asterisk (*) or question mark (?)

Web Tutorial

Database Search Help

Look for the database's Help page.  There is usually a link to the Help section of each database (e.g., Look for: Help, Tips, FAQAdvanced Search). They usually provide good examples of how to search. You can always ask a librarian as well.