Answered By: Susan Steele
Last Updated: May 19, 2017     Views: 15501

The asterisk is a commonly used wildcard symbol that broadens a search by finding words that start with the same letters. Use it with distinctive word stems to retrieve variations of a term with less typing.

In many databases a wildcard is no longer needed to find variations that are formed by simply adding "s" (e.g., teacher often finds either teacher or teachers). The wildcard is very helpful, however, when you want to retrieve more complex variations. In the search shown below, motivat* will find motivate, motivates, motivation, motivational, etc., and child* will find children as well as child.

Shows Academic Search Complete search for motivat with a wildcard and sharing or prosocial behavior and child with a wildcard

Check database online help to identify valid wildcards for specific resources. For example:

  • instruct* finds instructinstructsinstructor, etc., in most databases, OneSearch, and the Library Catalog
  • comput! finds compute, computes, computer, computation, etc., in LexisNexis Academic database
  • wom?n finds woman or women in most databases, OneSearch, and the Library Catalog