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Tarleton State University Libraries Unit 4
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image of scissors   Truncation allows simultaneous searches for variant forms of search terms. This type of search is sometimes called stem searching because the "stem" (or root) part of a word forms the foundation for the search. A truncation symbol is then added at the end of the stem (i.e. manag*).

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Truncation broadens searches to retrieve items containing various forms of a word. This type of search increases the number of returns and locates items that might be missed due to word choices.

For example, if you were looking for material about management, a truncated search might be useful because it would locate items containing variations of the root word "manage" and return records containing terms like manager, managed, and so on. Most online search tools allow this type of search, and the online search tips will indicate what symbol to use in the search.

Truncation can be, and often is, combined with other types of search refinements (boolean operators, nested terms, etc.) to enhance precision.

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After reading the online search tips, you'll know what symbol to use to create a truncated search. Then you need to figure out what constitutes the best root for your search term, combine the root and symbol, and search.

In the example that follows, an asterisk (*) is used as the truncation symbol. To create a truncated search to locate material related to management, you would probably use manage or manag as the root. Think carefully when choosing the root because it will determine the number of results retrieved.

For example, using a truncated search for manag* would retrieve results containing the words managing, management, manager, managed, and managerial. However, the truncated search for manage* would not retrieve items that only contained the term managing and no other form of the word manage.

Also, truncated searches have the potential to significantly decrease precision because they usually capture all possible words that share the same beginning letters. For example, a search for mana* instead of manag* would retrieve items containing the terms listed above along with items containing the terms manacle and manatee, which would probably not be useful in research about management.

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Updated 7/2004