Answered By: APUS Librarians
Last Updated: Mar 07, 2017     Views: 13738

Wildcards are a librarian trick to maximize your search results in library databases.  A wildcard is usually a character that may be used in a search term to represent one or more other characters.

The two most commonly used wildcards are:

  • An asterisk (*) may be used to specify any number of characters. It is typically used at the end of a root word, when it is referred to as "truncation."   This is great when you want to search for variable endings of a root word.
  • A question mark (?) may be used to represent a single character, anywhere in the word.  It's most useful when there are variable spellings for a word, and you want to search for all variants at once.  

Each of the library's databases (and internet search engines) use wildcards differently.  To find out what works in your favorite database, look for the "help" link (usually along the top of the screen).  A few examples are linked below.

You might also enjoy this fun trunctation tutorial from the Colorado State University Libraries.

 

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