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Tarleton State University Libraries Unit 4
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image of playing cards   Wildcard Searches (aka Substitution) are similar to truncation searches; however in wildcard searches a symbol is substituted within a word for a letter (or letters) rather than at the end of a word. Wildcard searches help researchers find words that share some letters in common, but not all letters (e.g. man and men). They also help when a word's correct spelling is unknown (e.g. Carlson and Carlsen).

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Wildcard searches broaden searches to retrieve items containing various possible spellings of words. This type of search increases the number of returns and locates items that might be missed due to how a word is spelled. Wildcard searches let search mechanisms look for patterns with various letters in the place where the wildcard symbol appears. This process is especially useful when different forms of words are created by internal changes (e.g. man/men, woman/women, ran/run, and so on) and when words have more than one possible spelling (e.g. Johnson/Johnsen, advertise/advertize, etc.).

Wildcard searches can be, and often are, 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 will know which symbol to use to create a wildcard search. Frequently, the wildcard symbol is a question mark; however, it is best to check the help files. The symbol is used within the word in place of the letter (or letters) in question and either used by itself or combined with other terms in the search.

For example, the search "wom?n and workplace" will return records containing the words workplace, women, and woman. Without the use of the wildcard symbol, some records would probably be missed. For example if the search "women and workplace" was used, records that contained the word "woman", but not the word "women" would not be retrieved by the search.

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Library Orientation Site Index
Updated 7/2004