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Searching for journal articles

Quicker, smarter, more effective searching.

Finding word variations

Click the Transcript button to see the transcript of the video above

Unlike public search engines, most Library databases are very literal about word endings.

Searching for Australia does not find articles that have the word Australian, and the plural word Australians is another separate search.

You could search for Australia OR Australian OR Australians

However, most databases have a special feature to find different word endings without typing in all those word variations.

Use an asterisk (*, Shift+8 on your keyboard) to replace multiple letters:

Australia* will find articles that contain the word Australia , Australian, Australians, or Australiana (such as articles about other writing about Australia)
Austral* would find all these words and also find Australasia (which Australia, New Zealand and depending on context, New Guinea and Melanesia), and maybe articles on the southern lights, the aurora australis

When used like this, the asterisk is called a truncation symbol, because it cuts off, or truncates, a word.

Be careful about truncating too far. One student tried to search for femur and femoral using fem*, but of course they also found female, feminine, feminism, etc.

Check your understanding


You want to find all the articles about computers and computing.
Which search would you use?

computers OR computing

This will find all articles that contain either the word computers or the word computing.

Most databases are very strict about exact search terms, so this would not find articles that only use the word computer (without an 's' on the end). Using comput* would find all three words.


Well done! This would be a correct use of truncation in a Library database, and will find journal articles that contain the words computers (or computer) or the word computing - but watch out for articles that contain the word computation, which may not be relevant.

computers* AND computing*

This will find journal articles that use the words computers and computing in the same article. This will not find any article that just uses one of these words. The asterisks on the end of the full words are not particularly useful, unless you are trying to also find tradenames like computerSelect or non-English words like computingu (Czech)


Unfortunately, while this will find articles that contain the words computer or computers, it will not find articles using the word computing.


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