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Database Search Fundamentals: Truncation & Wildcards


Truncation/wildcard is a search technique which allows you to search databases for variant spellings of words simultaneously.

Truncation is placing a symbol after the root of a word.


  • collaborat*

Will retrieve collaborate, collaboration, collaborative, collaborations, collaborating

  • child*

Will retrieve child, children, childhood, childbirth, children's


However, this doesn't work with all words. Truncation at col*

Will retrieve too many and too many unrelated results such as colonel, collection, college, cold, Colombia‚Äč


Wildcards allow you to insert a symbol into words, usually a ? or #, to search replace a letter.


  • ne?t or ne#t

Will retrieve next, nest, neat, newt, etc.

  • l?st or l#st

Will retrieve list, last, lust, lest, lost, etc.

The most common truncation/wildcard symbols are an asterisk (*), hash tag (#), or question mark (?), but this can vary by database so it is wise to check individual database Help pages.