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Search Technique Guide

A guide that goes over various techniques to improve your search results in various search engines and databases.

Wildcards and Truncation

One thing that often appears in a “help” screen is a list of wildcards and truncation.

A wildcard is a filler. You know how you can play a card game and “2’s are wild”. That means that if you hold a 2, it can be used in place of any other card. So it is with wildcards and search engines. A specific character can stand in place of a single character, multiple characters or even whole words. This is especially helpful when the English word may have an American spelling and a British spelling. Is Jesus the savior of the world or saviour? Is it the color grey or the colour gray?

For truncation, a special character, often the asterisk, is used to replace the end of words. So, if you don’t know if you want "biology" or "biological" you stop at the end of the root of the word and add the special character, e.g. biolog*. The results will include all the different results with all the different endings.

TIP: Help from the Search Engine

Something that most people overlook, until they are desperate, is the “help” or “tips” link on a search page. That help box can often lead you to understanding that specific search engine and will help you understand if it uses any special characters or if the engine is built for specific purposes. There are thousands of search engines out there and some are meant for searching for people or government documents. There may even be some just for sports information. So, take the time to explore the “help” feature and discover more about the search engine and its functions.