WILDCARD SEARCHES

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Wildcards allow you to find words using patterns for a set of words (replacing single or multiple characters) and to find synonyms or word forms of a word.
Note that wildcards may be used in phrase and proximity searches.

Single Character

  1. Use the single character wildcard to replace any single character in a term. Note that this wildcard is a replacement wildcard there must be a character in the wildcard position to register a hit.
  2. Two or more single character wildcards may be used in the same term, if necessary.
  3. The single character wildcard is the question mark ?.
Query  Explanation
wom?n Finds all terms which match the pattern (such as woman or women)
b??k Finds all four letter words which start with b and end with k (such as book, bilk, or bark)
“the best advi?e” Finds all phrases which match the pattern (such as “the best advise” or “the best advice”)

Multiple Character

  1. Use the multiple character wildcard to replace 0 or more characters in a term.
  2. Two or more multiple character wildcards may be used in the same term, if necessary.
  3. The multiple character wildcard is the asterisk (or star) *.
Query  Explanation
f*s Finds all terms which start with f and end with s (such as fees, favors, or finalizes)
work* Finds all terms which start with the pattern work (such as work, worked, or workers)
*ed Finds all phrases which end in ed (such as worked, overruled, or red)
“the great* debate” Finds all records which contain phrases which match the pattern (such as “the great debate” or “the greatest debate”)

Synonym (or Thesaurus)

  1. Use the synonym (or thesaurus) wildcard to find synonyms of a term. Note that you cannot specify usage for the synonym; searching for synonyms of address could find both location ("What is your address?") and speak ("He addressed the audience").
  2. The synonym wildcard is the dollar sign $. (Since the $ looks like an S, you can remember that it applies to Synonym searches.)
  3. Note that the synonym wildcard must appear at the end of the term. The synonym wildcard may not be mixed with any other wildcards in the same term.


  4. Query  Explanation
    murder$ Finds synonyms of the term murder (such as will find cases with murder, killing, assassination, homicide, etc.)
    murder$ murder% Finds synonyms of murder and words forms of murder (word forms are discussed below).
    Synonym examples include killing, assassination, homicide, etc.
    Word Form (or Stem) Word stem examples include murder, murdered



  5. Use the word form (or stem) wildcard to find forms of a term. Word forms are defined by the parts of speech singular, plural, past tense, present tense, future tense, etc.
  6. Note that you do not need to specify a root word to perform a word form search. A word form search on long (a root word) should produce the same results as a word form search on longer.
  7. The word form wildcard is the percentage sign %.
  8. Note that the word form wildcard must appear at the end of the term. The word form wildcard may not be mixed with any other wildcards in the same term.
Query  Explanation
work% Finds word forms of the term (such as work, works, or working)
murder% Finds word forms of the term murder (such as murder or murdered)
“one if by land%” Finds phrases which begin with “one if by” and which end in word forms of land (such as land or landed)

Proximity Searches

  1. Proximity searches allow you to specify how close two (or more) words must be to each other in the same record in order to register a hit.
  2. You can specify either word proximity or record proximity searches.

Word Proximity

  1. Word proximity allows you to specify a range that all terms in the proximity search must appear in. The terms must be contained in the same record.
  2. Word proximity searches may be ordered or unordered.
  3. When creating a word proximity search, you must specify a range for the search. All terms in the proximity must appear in the specified range. The first word from the proximity search that is found begins the count for the range.
  4. For example, an ordered proximity search to find dog, cat, and rat within a 10 word range must find dog first. Dog counts as one word in the range. Both cat and rat must be found within the next nine words to register a hit. (In an unordered proximity, it would not matter which term was found first; the other two terms must be found within the next nine words.)
  5. Note that wildcards may be used in phrase and proximity searches.

Ordered Proximity

  1. Use ordered proximity to specify the order in which terms must appear within a given range to count as a hit. This is more restrictive than the unordered proximity search.
  2. The ordered proximity operator is the forward slash /. Terms in an ordered proximity search must be enclosed in quotes.
  3. As a side note, you may be interested to know that a phrase search is basically an ordered proximity search with a proximity equal to the number of terms in the phrase.
Query  Explanation
“abuse discretion”/5 Finds records which contain both abuse and discretion, in that order, within a five word range (i.e., abuse of discretion, abuse its discretion, abuse of the court's discretion)
“me and my shadow”/10 Finds records which contain these four terms, in order, within a 10 word range.

Unordered Proximity

  1. Use unordered proximity to specify a set of terms which must appear within a given range in any order.
  2. The unordered proximity operator is the at symbol @. Terms in an unordered proximity search must be enclosed in quotes.
Query  Explanation
“wrongful termination harassment”@14 Finds records which contain all three terms, in any order, within a 14 word range



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Updated January 2000
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