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Research Process: Truncation & Wildcard Symbols

an introduction to the research process at a very basic level


Truncation allows you to search any ending on a root word.

For example, if your topic uses the word teenagers, then you may also want to search:

  • teen
  • teens
  • teenager

The root word is teen.

To truncate and search teen with any ending type: teen*

  • The asterisk at the end of the root word tells the database to search for that word with any ending.
  • This expands your search to find more articles.
  • Some databases use the dollar sign $ or question mark ? as truncation symbols instead of the asterisk *.  


Use truncation carefully. You may end up with variations that you didn't anticipate and therefore increasing your results with irrelevant records. 

Wildcard Symbols

Wildcard symbols can be used in several databases to enhance your search string. 

Asterisk wildcard (*): is used between words where variations may be possible. Example: "responsibility * budgeting" can return results such as, "responsibility-centered budgeting" or "responsibility center budgeting"

Question mark wildcard (?): is used to replace an unknown character or you are confused how to write a word. Example: wom?n will end-up for results for women or woman.