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Truncation - How it works  

Last Updated: Jan 28, 2014 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates
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Truncation (also known as wildcard searching) is a useful trick to use when searching in databases that allows you to retrieve different variations of the words you're looking for. 

Many databases let you do a keyword search where you can type part of a word and then add an asterisk (*) to the end of the word. The database will then perform a search looking for every word that begins with the letters you typed in. For example, if you typed in the keyword, interact* the database will search for interact, interacting, interaction, and interactivty

Added with Boolean Searching (aka "sweet connecting word"):

To gain better precision in searching, it will be useful to connect your keywords in a meaningful way. These connecting words are known as AND, OR, and NOT. Think of these connecting words as a bridge between keywords or concepts which allows you to narrow or broaden your search. 

Using AND narrows your search. The more keywords you connect with AND, the less results you will receive because the database will need to find each of your keywords in the text in order to show it to you.

For example:  homeless youth and education and new york city

Be careful not to add unnecessary words to AND searches. You might just miss some really pertinent information. Sometimes, the more simple the search, the better.

Using OR broadens your search. Here were are less picky with what we want. This is also useful when searching for two concepts that are closely related and retrieving information on either of them would be useful.

For example:  cars OR automobiles

                       environment AND (water OR lake* OR river* OR stream*)

Here the first search is asking for all information pertaining to cars or automobiles.

The second search is a little more detailed, but more precise.

Using NOT will narrow your search. This type of search is good to use when you already know what you DO NOT want. Let's say you are doing a search on new cars but you are only interested in American made models.

For example:  cars OR automobiles NOT Europe.




    nurse AND education

    adversting AND children  

    genetic engineering AND ethics        


    nurs* AND education

    advertis* AND child*

    gene*engineering AND ethic*


    nurs* AND (educat* OR train* OR school*)

    (advertis* OR market*) AND (child* OR adoles*)

    gene* AND (alter* OR engineer*) AND (ethic* OR moral*)


    Some words are not really suited for truncation and will get us results all over the map.

    Look at "mat*"

    Our results could include mates, maternity, mating, matrix, math.  


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