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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

N.B. This page is a guide to the new WorldCat interface, not the old, FirstSearch interface.


Asterisk: *

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

Wildcard (single character) Pound sign: #

wom#n retrieves woman, women, womyn

Wildcard (multiple caracters) Question mark: ?

colo?r retrieves color, colour, colonizercolorimeter.


Put phrases in quotation marks.

Default: AND 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 that contain both words north and pole, regardless of where the words appear in the document.

Boolean operators


You may also use the following symbols in place of AND, OR, NOT:

+ (plus sign for AND)
| (pipe sign for OR)
- (minus sign for 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

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 W1 thoreau retrieves documents that contain the phrases henry david thoreau or henry thoreau.

race N3 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 also riot and the arms race