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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Research Articles and Peer Reviewed Journals

A step-by-step guide to understanding and finding research articles and peer reviewed journals

Truncation and Wild Cards


Most electronic databases allow for a symbol to be used at the end of a word to retrieve variant endings of that word. This is known as truncation.

For example, in Education Abstracts, the "$" is used as a truncation symbol. By placing this at the end of a root word, such as work$, you will retrieve all words beginning with that root (work, worker, workforce, workplace, etc.). 

Wild Cards

Some databases allow for wild cards to be embedded within a word to replace a single character.

For instance, in Education Abstracts, you can also use $ within a word to replace characters. For example, comp$tion finds composition, competition, computation, etc. 

The symbols used for truncation and wild cards are different in different databases (it may be a ?, $, #, *, etc.). To determine the symbols in the database you're using, check the online help screens or ask a librarian. 

Narrowing or Expanding a Search

Add or drop search terms to narrow or expand a search.

Narrowing your search

If you're getting too many results with your current search terms, try combining different concepts of a topic with AND

For example:

  • Topic: What are the effects of television watching on children with ADHD?
  • Keywords: ADHD, television, children
  • Search strategy: ADHD AND television AND children


Limit your search with additional concepts, publications, dates, full text articles, scholarly/ research articles.  

Expanding your search

If you're not getting enough results, try adding additional synonyms for concepts.

For example:

  • Keywords: ADHD, television, children
  • Synonyms: ADHD = Hyperactivity, Television = TV, Children = Kids


Combine synonyms of like concepts with OR

For example:

  • Topic: What are the effects of television watching on children with ADHD?
  • Search strategy: (television OR TV) AND (ADHD OR hyperactivity) AND (children OR kids)