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Searching tips & tricks: Tricks and Tips

Wildcards

A wildcard is a symbol that tells the computer to accept any letter in that place.  If you are not sure how to spell a term or there are alternate spellings, a wildcard will allow you to retrieve results.  The most common symbol for this is a ?, but it can vary between databases.  You can check the Help menu to see if wildcards work in any given platform.

Examples:

  • gr?y retrieves gray or grey (alternate spellings)
  • wom?n retrieves woman or women (irregular plural)

Truncation

Truncation literally means "cutting short." It allows you to put in part of a word and retrieve all the forms of the word that start with the characters you have entered.  The most common symbol used for truncation is an asterisk (*), but it may be different across databases. Truncation can allow any number of letters, and it only works at the end of a word.

Examples:

  • archit* retrieves architecture or architect
  • psycho* retireves psychosis, psychotic, etc.

Be careful not to over use truncation. If you cut a word too short, you will get words that don't actually relate.

Good example:

  • consum* retrieves consumer, consumes, consumerism

Poor example:

  • cons* retrieves all those words along with constipation, consult, constituent... etc.