Truncation and Wildcards

Truncating a search term

Truncation, also called stemming, is a technique that broadens your search to include various word endings and spellings.

  • To use truncation, enter the root of a word and put the truncation symbol at the end.
  • The most common truncation symbol is * (asterisk). The database will return results that include any ending of that root word.

For example: child* gives you child, children, childhood etc.

OBS! Many databases can automatically recall some inflected forms of words, typically singulars / plurals and sometimes conjugations too. Also American-British spelling variations are often taken care of by the system.

For example: color might retrieve also color, colors, colour, colours, coloring, colouring

Still, if a term is not a “common” word, plural might not be regocnised, for instance peatland, peatlands. Observe the result list, if it includes the plurals or not, and use truncation if needed.

Usually using a phrase search will eliminate all automatic stemming.

Wild cards

Similar to truncation, wildcards substitute a symbol for one (or zero) letter of a word.

  • Wildcard is useful if a word is spelled in different ways, but still has the same meaning.
  • Depending on a database, a wildcard may be ?, %, # etc.

For example: organi?ation, colo#r

OBS! Truncation / wildcard symbols vary by database.  Check the help screens to find out which symbols are used.

Watch the video “Truncation & wildcards” (2:40) by University of Essex Library (the link in the picture takes you to Youtube):

(8/2022 LP)