Search tips: Wildcards, Truncation, and Boolean – What do they all mean?

You may be aware of the simple search strategy we librarians like to call Boolean. It’s a form of database logic which can help connect your keywords together when you search in a database.

The three basic Boolean operators are AND, OR, and NOT and you can use these to broaden or narrow your search.

For example:

Puppies AND kittens – results containing those two keywords

Puppies OR kittens – broadens results

(Puppies AND kittens) NOT dogs – narrows results

There are extra tools you can use to help refine your search strategy, these are called wildcards and truncation.

Truncation help by broadening your keyword search by attaching to the root of a word, this is usually done by adding an asterisk to the end of the root of a word.

For example:

Child* = children, children’s, child’s, childhood

Wildcards are useful when multiple spellings of a word can affect your search. Remember, the symbol of the wildcard may change depending on which database you use.

For example:

coloni?e = colonise, colonize

 Wom!n = woman, women

If you want to read further about this, take a look at one of our resources to help you Think Like a Computer and bring your research to the next level.