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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


Asterisk: $ or *

child* retrieves child, children, childbirth, childbearing, childish.

child$ retrieves child, children, childbirth, childbearing, childish.

Mandated Wildcard (single character) Pound sign: #

dog# retrieves dogs, but not dog

Optional Wildcard (single character) Question mark: ?

colo?r retrieves color, or colour.


Searches for multiple words as a phrase by default.

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

Boolean operators AND, OR, NOT

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

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

Proximity operators

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

race ADJ3 riot retrieves documents that contain the phrases race riot; race and riot in wartime LA; race, gender and riot; riot of 1921: race, reparations, and reconciliation; but not riot and the arms race