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.).
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.
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