Truncating words

Truncating words

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

SFtruTo use truncation, enter the root of a word and put the truncation symbol at the end.
The 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.


Similar to truncation, wildcards substitute a symbol for one or one/zero letter of a word.
A wildcard replacing one character is ? (Web of Science, Scopus, ProQuest) or # (CAB Abstracts).
A wildcard replacing zero or one character is $ (Web of Science) or ? (CAB Abstracts).

For example: organi?ation, colo#r

Replacing a character is useful for instance if you are not sure about the spelling:

eri?son retrieves ericson and erikson

hof$man retrieves hofman and hoffman

Wildcard is also useful if a word is spelled in different ways, but still has the same meaning.

advis?r retrieves adviser and advisor

See a video ‘Wildcard and Truncation Advanced Searching Tutorial’ (2:11) by Oklahoma City Community College Library :


Dilemma with lemmas

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

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

Notice 1. If you use phrases in your queries, this automatism won’t work!

For example: “level of organization” won’t find “level of organisation” or “levels of organization”

Instead you can use: ” level*  of  organi*ation “

Notice 2. If you are interested for instance in cycling (riding a bike) and want to avoid other, wrong forms like cycle, you can either use truncation: cycling* or a phrase: “cycling”.