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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 records with "child", "children", "childbirth", "childbearing", "childish", and so forth.

Wildcard (Single character)

Question mark: ?

m?nchen retrieves records with "München" or "Munchen".


Quation marks: "word1 word2"

Default: AND operators between words

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

north pole--without quotation marks--retrieves articles with both words "north" and "pole", regardless of where the appear in the document.

Boolean operators


lincoln AND douglas retrieves articles that contain both "lincoln" and "douglas".

lincoln OR douglas retrieves articles that contain either "lincoln" or "douglas".

Proximity operators

"word1 word2"~n
terms inside the quotation marks must appear within n words of eachother, in the specified order.

"henry thoreau"~2 retrieves "henry thoreau", "henry david thoreau", but not "thoreau, henry david".

Other Query Options


Pound sign: # 

Goose# retrieves records with "goose", "geese", or "gosling".
Fuzzy Searching  Tilde ~

dostoyevsky~ retrieves articles with "dostoyevsky", as well as variants like "dostoevsky", "dostoievski", "dostoevsky", "dostoyevski", "dostoevskii", "dostoevski", and so forht.

Boosting term relevance

Caret followed by a number: ^n

cat^7 dog gives seven times more weight to the term "cat" than it does "dog".

Field Searching

Article Title


ti:"lord halifax and monasticism" words or phrases in the article's title.
Title of a Reviewed Work  rt: rt:"exterminate all the brutes" words or phrases in the title of a book being reviewed.
Author's Name


au:"cannadine" words or phrases in the name of the article's author.
Reviewed Author ra: ra:"asa briggs" words or phrases in the anme of an author whose book is being reviewed.