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What are truncation symbols and wildcards?

Last Updated: Oct 02, 2015  |  701 Views
Topics: Databases

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Truncation is a searching technique used in databases in which a word ending is replaced by a symbol. This enables different forms of a word to searched for simultaneously, and will increase the number of search results found.

For example, "laugh*" will search for: 

  • laugh
  • laughter
  • laughing etc.

Different databases use different truncation symbols. Frequently used truncation symbols include the asterisk (*), a question mark (?) or a dollar sign ($). Some may also use an exclamation mark (!).

However, placing the truncation symbol too soon in a word might be counterproductive.

For example, "hum*" will search for 'humour', but it will also retrieve unrelated terms like:

  • human
  • humbug
  • humerus
  • hummus etc.

In such cases, you might consider using wildcards, if the database supports this. This is when characters within the word other than at the end can be subsituted.

In the above example, if you wanted to search for both 'humour' and 'humor' (American spelling), you might consider using the search term "humo?r".

Note: Always check with your database's help screens or 'Search Tips for information on whether they support wildcards and truncation, what symbols they use, and how to use them.

Answered by Jackie StevensBookmark and Share

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