Conducting Electronic Research

Using Wild Card Symbols

Using wildcard symbols, especially when you are unsure of the spelling of a word, allows you to enlarge a keyword search.

The most common symbols are as follows:

An asterisk (*), which substitutes for a string of multiple variable characters in the spelling of word, is useful for including all words with prefixes and suffixes derived from a single root in a keyword search. For example:

Entering writ* into the search field will allow writ, write, writes, writer and written, as well as writing to be returned in your search results, whereas entering writing will result only in returning all records that include the word writing.

A question mark (?), which substitutes for one or more single variable characters within the body of a word, is useful for including possible spellings of a word in a keyword search. For example:

Entering "S??weitzer" into the search field when unsure of the spelling of Albert Schweitzer's last name, will return records with both "Schweitzer" and "Sweitzer" in the search results. As it turns out, both are common spellings of the great humanitarian's name.

More can be learned about using wildcard symbols online at the PsycCrawler User's Guide. You may also consult a librarian, to learn more about using wildcards in your library catalog and electronic database searches.

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