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You can use truncation to search for all the variants of a word. In many databases, you can do this by placing an asterisk towards the end of a word so that it acts as any combination of letters that follow the preceding word.

For example:

"writ*" in search bar

Gives you all words that start with writ!

This includes: write, writing, writer, and written.

Performing Effective Searches with Boolean Operators

When searching databases, you can use the Boolean operators AND, OR, and NOT to combine your key terms and retrieve relevant search results.

Here is a short video that explains how to utilize Boolean operators!

McMaster Libraries [McMaster Libraries]. (2016 November 28). How Library Stuff Works: Boolean Operators (AND OR NOT) [video file]. Retrieved from


Quotation Marks

Place quotation marks around your multi-keyword phrases to make sure that the search engine or database pulls up results containing the complete phrases instead of irrelevant results that contain the individual words in any order.

For example:

"john smith" without quotation marks in search bar

will find information on all people named "John," and all people named "Smith."



"'john smith'" with quotation marks in search bar

will only give you results for people named "John Smith."

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