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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 documents with child, children, childbirth, childbearing, childish, and so forth.

Wildcard (single character) Question mark: ? wom?n retreives documents with womanwomen, or womyn.
Wildcard (multiple characters) Asterisk: *

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


Use quotation marks around words to search for them as a phrase.

Default: AND operators between multiple words.

"james earl ray" retrieves only documents with the exact phrase james earl ray.

james earl ray (without quotation marks) retrieves documents with the words james and earl and ray anywhwere in the document, in any order.

Boolean operators AND, OR, NOT

lincoln AND douglas retrieves only records that contain both lincoln and douglas.

lincoln OR douglas retrieves records that contain either lincoln or douglas.

Proximity operators

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

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

henry NEAR2 thoreau retrieves henry thoreau, henry david thoreau, and thoreau, henry david.

henry ADJ2 thoreau retrieves only henry david thoreau and henry thoreau.