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How to Use the Library Catalog: Constructing Search Terms

Wildcards and Truncation

Using Wildcards and Truncation can return multiple related terms or expand searches. 

Wildcards

Number Sign # 

  • A minimum of three characters must precede the symbol. 
  • Replace one character in a search 

For example: wom#n retrieves woman and women 

Question Mark ?

  • A minimum of three characters should precede the symbol. 
  • Caution: When less than three characters proceed the symbol, the results returned may be incomplete. 
  • Replace 0 to 9 unknown characters in a search term.
  • Followed by a number, replace the specified number of unknown characters (?n--question mark followed by a number from 1 to 9)

For example: encyclop?dia retrieves encyclopedia and encycleopaedia 

res?4tion retrieves respiration, restoration, reservation

Truncation

Asterisk *

  • A minimum of three characters must precede the symbol. 
  • Add to the end of a word to retrieve variant endings. 
  • Search returns records with 0 or more characters in place of the truncation symbol. 

For example: connect* retrieves connect, connection, connectivity etc. 

Selecting Search Terms and Keywords

CHOOSING KEYWORDS

· State your topic as a question

· Identify the main concepts or keywords

· Identify synonyms and related words

· Use keywords and synonyms as search terms

 

Question  Keywords  Synonyms & Related Words

How does the role of the fool function

in Shakespeare’s plays?

Shakespeare, fool,

(names of specific plays)

Clown, Feste, Falstaff,

Trinculo, Touchstone

 

Keep in mind search terms can be too broad or too narrow!

If you are getting too few results, try using keywords that are more general. If you are get too many unrelated results try being more specific.

Boolean Operators

ALL BOOLEAN OPERATORS IN THE LIBRARY CATALOG ARE CASE SENSITIVE AND MUST BE CAPITALIZED. 

AND  

  • Find all terms anywhere in a record. 
  • Can omit for simple searches when just one search term is used or where  no other boolean operator is used. 
  • Can use the plus sign (+) in place of AND 

For example: Mississippi AND History AND Racism 

OR

  • Finds any single term or all terms

For example: Shakespeare OR Marlow 

NOT 

  • Excluded the term that follows NOT
  • Can use the minus sign (-) in place of NOT 

For example: Butterflies NOT Moths 

Millsaps-Wilson Library | Millsaps College | 601-974-1073 | librarian@millsaps.edu