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Information Seeking Tutorial

Truncation

In many databases you can use truncation. Truncation means using a truncation symbol at the word’s end to find words that have multiple endings, e.g. child* –> child, children, childhood. Truncation broadens your search. Common truncation symbols are * and ?. Truncation symbols vary by database, so check the search instructions to find out which symbol is used.
 

  • For example, in Volter and many other databases such as the Academic Search Premier in EbscoHost the truncation mark is *
  • e.g. the search term comput* finds computer, computers, computing

  • in the Finnish Union catalogue Melinda the truncation symbol is ?
  • the search term comic? finds word forms comics, comic etc.
  • if the root of the word is very short, it is recommended to combine the word forms using the Boolean operators.

Check the database’s search instructions to find out which symbol is used!

Wildcards

In addition to truncation you may also substitute one or more letters of a word. This is helpful, if a word is spelled in various ways. For example, behavio*r -> behavior, behaviour

Database Wildcard to substitute one letter of a word Wildcard to substitute 0 or more letters of a word
Volter

  • wildcard is ?
  • e.g. wom?n finds woman, women

  • wildcard is *
  • e.g. behavio*r finds behavior, behaviour
EbscoHost

  • wildcard is ?
  • e.g. wom?n finds woman, women

  • wildcard is #
  • e.g. behavio#r finds behavior, behaviour


It is always recommended to check the database’s search instructions to find out which symbol is used!

Phrase search

When you use the search term social media to find information on social media you may end up with thousands of irrelevant results.

This may be due to the fact that the search engine has not searched the words as a phrase but as separate words that are not necessarily adjacent to each other.

Many databases allow you to specify that the adjacent words should be searched as a phrase.

  • A common way is to use quotes around the terms: "social media", (e.g. in the Volter library database). However, not all databases use quotes in phrase search.
  • Some databases may automatically search the adjacent search terms as phrase, and no quotes or any other symbols are required.
  • some databases offer proximity operators to look for words that are close to each other, e.g. the within or near operators in the Academic Search Premier database

Check the database’s search instructions to find out how the database interprets the adjacent words and phrases!

Example

Searching with the single words social media brought in Volter 4116 results, whereas the phrase search “social media” resulted in 970 records. Using the quotes you told the database that the search terms belong together and should be searched as a phrase.