Truncation (*)

Truncate: “to shorten…by cutting off a part” (OED Online).

Most library databases can only locate records if they contain exactly the word you enter. If you type the word teenagers into a database search field, you will only find records that use that exact form of the word. (This is why misspelled search terms tend to return few and inaccurate results.)

Just as a single idea can be expressed using many different keywords (or synonyms), each individual keyword has varying forms that could be used in sources relevant to your research. The truncations symbol (usually an asterisk “*”) lets you find all of these sources with a single search.

To use truncation in your search:
  • Look carefully at each of your search terms
  • Determine which letters in the word always remain the same (i.e., the root), no matter how the word is used in context (whether it is used as a noun, verb, adjective, adverb, etc.)
  • Remove any letters that come after this root, and type the asterisk (*) in their place.
  • .


Truncate (shorten) teenagers to teen*, to find:


If you do not use truncation, you risk overlooking countless sources that could contain facts or information valuable to your research.