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Research Articles and Peer Review: Search strategies

Truncation & wild cards


Most databases allow for a symbol to be used at the end of a word to retrieve variant endings of that word. This is known as truncation.

For example, in ProQuest Central, the "*" is used as a truncation symbol. By placing this at the end of a root word, such as work*, you will retrieve all words beginning with that root (work, worker, workforce, workplace, etc.). 

Wild Cards

Some databases allow for wild cards to be embedded within a word to replace a single character.

For instance, in ProQuest Central, you can also use ? within a word to replace characters. For example, comp?tion finds composition, competition, computation, etc. 

The symbols used for truncation and wild cards are different in different databases (it may be a ?, $, #, *, etc.). To determine the symbols in the database you're using, check the online help screens for each database or ask a librarian. 

Narrowing or expanding a search

Add or drop search terms to narrow or expand a search.

Narrowing your search

If you're getting too many results with your current search terms, try combining different concepts of a topic with AND

For example:

  • Topic: What are the effects of television watching on children with ADHD?
  • Keywords: ADHD, television, children
  • Search strategy: Adhd AND television AND children


Limit your search with additional concepts, publications, dates, full text articles, scholarly/ research articles.  

Expanding your search

If you're not getting enough results, try adding additional synonyms for concepts.

For example:

  • Keywords: ADHD, television, children
  • Synonyms: ADHD = Hyperactivity, Television = TV, Children = Kids


Combine synonyms of like concepts with OR

For example:

  • Topic: What are the effects of television watching on children with ADHD?
  • Search strategy: (television OR tv) AND (Adhd OR hyperactivity) AND (Children OR kids)