What is a Wildcard Character?

You can add special symbols called "wildcards" to a search term in order to receive more results.

Often times this is used if a you're not familiar with a spelling, a word has multiple spellings, or you're trying to recall specific information.

Different search tools, databases, and database providers utilize different wildcard characters.

One or No Character Wildcard Searches

Some database providers such as Gale, have an option to search one or no unknown characters.

To search one or more unknown characters, you can use a question mark. For example, you could type in "flavo?r" in the search bar.

A search box with the text flavo?r

For example, the search above will result in all occurrences of "flavour" or "flavor".

This means that the wildcard character either represents a letter or no letter at all.

Exactly One Character Wildcard Searches

A search box with the text inauguration b?ll

If you have a specific citation for an article and you're not sure if part of the citation contains "ball" or "bill", you can use exactly one wildcard character, b?ll  to represent the unknown letter.

Any search terms containing "inauguration" will be returned along with "ball", "bill", "bell", "bull", or any acronyms fitting that criteria.

One or Many Character Wildcard Searches

Database providers such as JSTOR and Gale allow multiple character searching.

A search bar with ph*ic within

The search "ph*ic" may return results containing the words "physiologic", "phonetic", or "phlegmatic".

Some databases allow you to use the single character wildcard multiple times to represent letters in a search. Searches for b??k may result in "book", beak", or "back"