Answered By: APUS Librarians
Last Updated: Nov 25, 2018     Views: 138818

The wildcard is an advanced search technique that can be used to maximize your search results in library databases.  Wildcards are used in search terms 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.
    • For example:  searching for educat* would tell the database to look for all possible endings to that root.  Results will include educate, educated, education, educational or educator.
  • A question mark (?) may be used to represent a single character, anywhere in the word.  It is most useful when there are variable spellings for a word, and you want to search for all variants at once.  
    • For example, searching for colo?r would return both color and colour.  


Each of the library's databases (and internet search engines) use the wildcard 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.

See also:

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