Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Wildcards, #$*!?...

Wildcards are slightly different than truncation symbols -- although many people use the terms interchangeably. Here's my definition...

A truncation symbol allows you to truncate a word at any point after the first three characters. This is what you use to ensure that you are retrieving variations of word endings. For example, retin$ retrieves retina, retinas, retinitis, etc.

Wildcards usually replace one, two, or no characters. For example, wom#n retrieves both women or woman.

To find out what wildcards are supported in your favorite database or search engine, check the HELP!

For Ovid
  • # - retrieves records that contain the search term with substituted character(s) [wom#n retrieves women or woman]
  • ? - retrieves records that contain the search term with either no characters substituted, or with substituted character(s) [colo?r retrieves color or colour]
For Web of Science
  • * - used in the middle of a word searches for terms with alternate spellings [sul*ur retrieves sulfur or sulphur]
  • ? - used for one character [Barthold? retrieves Bartholdi or Bartholdy]
  • $ - used for one or no charachers [Barthold? retrieves Barthold, Barholdi, or Bartholdy]; also use the $ to find British or American spellings of the same word [vapo$r retrieves vapor or vapour]
For PubMed
  • Unfortunately, there are no wildcards


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