Workshops / Get Help | A-Z Index | Publications | Printable Guides | Media Library | Staff



Literature searching


Truncation symbols and wildcards

Other tools to help modify your search strategy are 'truncation symbols' or 'wildcards'. Truncation symbols or wild cards are special symbols that have a specific role when you are searching a database.

The most commonly used symbols are: ? and *
Note that different databases will use different symbols (please refer to the 'Help' pages of the service).

Truncation symbols

A truncation symbol will allow you to search for words with the same stem, for example:


The * symbol is used here to indicate that this stem is required and any letters after the stem are acceptable. A search for Interest* would find words such as 'interest', 'interested', 'interesting'. All of these words have the stem 'Interest'.

A truncation symbol may help you capture formats of the word that you had not thought of e.g. 'interests'.


While truncation symbols are used at the end of words and can stand for any number of letters, wildcards can be used anywhere within a word to stand for any single letter. This is especially useful for variations in English/American spellings. To perform a search like this, a wildcard symbol would be used in the following way:


This search would return records containing the spelling variants organisation/organization.