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Advanced Search Techniques Truncation & Wildcards

Learn about advanced search strategies for databases and search engines.

About Truncation

Truncation uses an asterisk ( * ) or other symbols such as  !, ?, or # to search for multiple forms of the same root word. (Look for the database help page if you are unsure what symbols it uses.) For example:

  • Searching motiv* will find results that include motivate, motivating, motivated, motivation

Be careful with truncation because it doesn't work with every root word. For example, a search for col* could return results for colon, colony, collate, cold, etc.

Truncation Example

The example search is intended to find sources that discuss marketing strategies. strateg* is used to search for sources that include strategy, strategize, strategic, and strategies.

A search conducted in ABI/INFORM collection database using the search string: (marketing AND strateg*)

About Wildcards

wildcard is a symbol that takes the place of an unknown character or set of characters. Commonly used wildcards are the asterisk ( * ) and the question mark ( ? ). (Look for the database help page if you are unsure what symbols it uses.)

The question mark represents only one unknown character. For example:

  • Searching the word wom?n will have results that include women and woman.

The asterisk can represent more than one character. For example:

  • If you didn't know whether the spelling was color or colour, searching colo*r will search both spellings.

Wildcard Example

In the example, a wildcard is being used because of the difference between the American spelling, labor, and the British spelling, labour. By using the wildcard both versions will be searched.

A search conducted in the Business Source Premier database using the search string: ("labo*r movement" AND UK)