Let’s Get Wild

Not sure how to spell a name or want to expand your search results on the library catalog to include similar words? You can do both in the library catalog by using substitution and truncation in your search terms. The ? can be used as a substitute for letters in a word and $ can be used to truncate, or shorten a word. Here are a few examples to help you learn how use these handy search helpers.

Substitution is a useful tool if you’re sure about the spelling, but want to expand your results where a word can have two different spellings or you want to search for similar words at the same time. The best example of a case where you might want to use substitution is if the words women or woman will both yield relevant results. For example, let’s say you want to look for items by title that are related to women’s history. In this case, you can do a title keyword search for wom?n history and you will see results such that include History of Women and A Woman of History. Be aware that you can only use substitution for one character, so you can’t type in f??t to get feet or foot.

Truncation can be used when you aren’t sure about spelling or if you want to type in only part of a word to get expanded results. One example is if you don’t know how to spell a name – you can type in dos$sky as an author keyword search to find books by Dostoyevsky. Another example is to shorten a word with truncation, like comput$ to get results that include computer, computers, or computing. Unlike substitution, the $ will truncate an unlimited number of characters. You can see by our Dostoyevsky example that we only needed one $ in the middle of the search term, not five.Finally, truncation and substitution can be combined. If we look at the Dostoyevsky example again, suppose you did not know if the name ended with an i or a y – you can search for dos$sk?.

-Laura N.


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