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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Database Quick Guides

Basic information on writing search queries in library databases. Intended audience: advanced searchers, or searchers interested in learning more about advanced searching options.

The Basics

Truncation Asterisk: *

child* retrieves child, children, childbirth, childbearing, childish, and so forth.

Wildcard (1 character)

Question mark: ?

Use multiple question marks to replace multiple characters.

wom?n retrieves woman, women, or womyn

Wildcard (0 or 1 character) Exclamation mark: ! colo!r retrieves color or colour.
Wildcard (0 or more characters) Asterisk: *

col*r retrieves documents with color, colour, colonizer, or colorimeter.


Put phrases in quotation marks.

Default: N4 operators between multiple words.

"north pole" retrieves documents in which the words north and pole appear next to each other, in that exact order.

north pole (without quotation marks) retrieves documents in which the words north and pole appear within 4 words of eachother, in any order.

Boolean operators AND, OR, NOT

lincoln AND douglas retrieves documents that contain the word lincoln and the word douglas

lincoln OR douglas retrieves documents that that contain either the word lincoln or the word douglas.

Proximity operators

Wn terms must appear within n words in the specified order.

Nn terms must appear within n words of one another, in any order.

henry W2 thoreau retrieves only "henry david thoreau" and "henry thoreau".

henry N2 thoreau retrieves "henry thoreau", "henry david thoreau", and "thoreau, henry david".