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College Readiness

Truncation & Wildcards

Truncation and wildcards are symbols added to word stem in a keyword search to recieved variants of the stem.  The symbol used varies, always consult the help section of the catalog, database or search engine.  Common symbols are asterisk (*), question mark (?), exclamation point (!), etc.

Examples:

wom*n = woman, women

educat* = education, educator, educate, etc.

colo*r = color, colour

Search Strategy Worksheet with truncation (Clark College)

Subject Headings

Subject headings are controlled vocabulary created to help organize the vast amount of information available.  Almost all library catalogs and databases use some form of subject headings and allow them to be used as search terms.  Think of subject headings as the descriptor word or phrase of an overall topic.

Real life Subject Headings examples:

United States -- foreign relations

Geometry

Monsters -- West Virginina

Censorship -- Communist countries -- History -- 20th century

Step-by-step guide to using subject headings (Indiana State University)

Databases

Rockhurst offers a wide variety of databases.  Here is an alphabetical listing with descriptions. Rockhurst Databases.  

We suggest also using the Subject List of Databases, it narrows down what databases to use for a subject.

Databases

Boolean Operators

Boolean Operators are connecting search terms (AND, OR, NOT) used to help refine your keyword searches.

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What are Boolean Operators (Alliant Libraries)

Boolean Tutorial (Colorado State University)

Advanced Boolean Tutorial (Colorado State University)

Quotation & Parenthesis

Creating search terms is similar to creating a mathematical equation.  Using quation marks and parentheses helps the search produce more accuate and relevant results.

Quotation Marks are used around a group of words that you wish to be search as a phrase or concept, rather than individual words.  For example; if you search prescription drugs, you will recieve information about prescription drugs, any type of drug with out a prescription, etc.  This will give you a high number of results, but many that do not help your research.  

To reduce the amount of time you will spend sifting through non-relevant research, you can put quotation marks around phrases.  "Prescription drugs" will only result in items pertaining to the drugs that are prescribed.

Parentheses are used to create search order.The search will process the inner most word groupings and work outwards.  These work best when used with Boolean operators.  For example: (mouse OR rat) AND trap.  Search results using this equation will be either mouse trap or rat trap.

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