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SOWK 7370 - Research Methods


Truncation allows for searching of multiple forms of one word.  It will search for one or more letters after the symbol. Different databases use an assortment of symbols for truncation but the most common are * or ? 

  • medici*  will find medicine or medicinal, but not medication
  • transport? will find transportation, transporter, transporting, and several other words that start with "transport"


Wildcard symbols allow for replacing of one or more letters inside a word to find multiple versions of a word. In some databases, you will have to insert on wildcard symbol for each letter you want to replace.

  • wom*n will search for woman or women
  • behavi**r will search for the American English spelling of "behavior" and the British English spelling of "behaviour"


Placing parentheses around parts of a search strategy will indicate that you want that section of the search done separately and then combined with the rest of the search. Parentheses can be used more than once in a search strategy.

  • (dog or puppy) and therapy animals - The concept of dogs or puppies will be searched first and then combined with all the other materisl that talk about therapy animals to be sure both younger and mature dogs are included in the results.
  • (patient or resident) and (facility or home) - All resulting materials will have refered to the people as patients or residents and will also refer to their living quarters as a facility or home.

Truncation and/or wildcard symbols can be used within the parenthesis.

  • (patient* or resident*) and (behavi*r or action*) -  These results will look for singular and plural references to the people and how they act.

Proximity/Adjacency/Range Operators

Proximity/Range/Adjaceny operators allow you to indicate how far apaer the search terms can be in the resulting documents. Depending on the database, the designation can be withing the same sentence, paragraph, or with no more than a certin number of wrods in between the two search terms. 

The symbol representing this relationship varies greatly between databases. It is best to check the help features of the database to confirm the correct method.

  • woman w/5 marriage - The words woman and marriage will not have more than five words between them.
  • criminal n(6) prison - The words criminal and prision will not have more than six words between them.