Truncation / wildcard searching
> Use to: widen your search and ensure you don’t miss relevant search results
Most databases are not intelligent, they will just search for exactly what you type in. Truncation and wildcard symbols enable you to overcome this limitation. These search techniques find information on similar words by replacing part of the word with a symbol usually a * or ?.
In truncation the end of the word is replaced. For example theat* will find results including the words theatre, theater, theatric, theatrical and so on.
In wildcard searching, single letters from inside the word are replaced with a symbol. For example wom?n will retrieve the terms woman and women.
Please note! Different databases use different symbols for truncation and wildcard searching, so use the online help option to check what is used.
> Use to: combine your search words and include synonyms
Also known as Boolean operators, search operators allow you to join terms together, widen a search or exclude terms from your search results. This means you can be more precise in locating your information. Not all databases support Boolean searching.
- AND – Narrows your search by combining words. The results found must contain all the words which you have joined by using AND.
- OR – Broadens your search to include resources which contain any or all of the terms connected by OR.
- NOT – Narrows your search by excluding a term. Beware! By using this operator you might exclude relevant records because you will lose those records which include both words.
Please note! Check the online help screens for details of the search operators recognized by the database you are searching; some use symbols instead of words, e.g. + or &.
> Use to: make your search more specific
Phrase searching is a technique that narrows your search down by searching for an exact phrase or sentence. It is particularly useful when searching for a title or a quotation. Usually speech marks are used to connect the words together. For example “Power transition theory” will find results which contain that phrase. Some search tools may use (brackets) or ‘single quote marks’ rather than speech marks so check the online help.
Focusing a search by date, language or document type
There are many ways to focus your search and all databases offer different ways of doing this. Check the help facilities if the options are not immediately obvious. Some of the ways of limiting your search are as follows:
Date of publication
Place of publication
Type of material e.g. chapters in books, review articles, book reviews
“Cited reference” / “cited by” / “times cited” search
When you find a useful article or book, looking at its bibliography will give you information about other, older, books and articles on your research topic. Some databases also allow you to search for literature which has cited the article or book you have found. This can give you useful leads on more recent research on the same topic. There is no standard name for this type of search; depending on which database you are searching it may be referred to as “Cited reference” or “cited by” or “times cited”.
3.8 Saving your search results
You usually have the option to select specific search results to keep by marking or tagging them. Most databases will offer the following methods of saving your search results:
Email search results to yourself.
Save to your PC or memory stick.
Create your own account within certain databases to save your searches to re-run later or set up alerts
Export to bibliographic management software such as RefWorks or Endnote
You can use alerting services such as Zetoc Alerts to receive regular e-mails to update you on new publications. Once the alert is set up, it happens automatically, so you do not need to re-run literature searches at a later stage, unless you wish to – http://zetoc.mimas.ac.uk/
It is good practice to keep a record of which database you used and the search query you used.