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Centre for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (CAAC): Search Strategies

Welcome to the CAAC subject guide. This guide will introduce you to valuable information sources that are tailor-made for the subject, as well as services and facilities offered by the UP DLS.

Database Search Tips & Wildcards

"Alternatively referred to as a wild character or wildcard character, a wildcard is a symbol used to replace or represent one or more characters. Wildcards are typically either an asterisk (*), which represents one or more characters or question mark (?), which represents a single character."







Add to end of word to retrieve variant endings.

connect* : connectconnectionconnectivity, etc.

Question mark


Replace 0 to 9 unknown characters in a search term.

res?4tion : respirationrestora-tionreservation, etc.

Number sign


Replace one character in a search.

globali#ation: globalization and globalization

Quotation marks

“    “

Create a phrase

“South Africa” : only words next to each other

Proximity search

(not all databases)

N number

Finds both terms, in any order, with no more than the specified number of words between

International n2 relations

International political relations

International cultural relations

Searching With Keywords

Sharing with thanks to the Lehman College Library.


1.Do background reading, familiarize yourself with your topic.
2.Define concepts.

Analyse your topic to identify concepts: 

nouns and verbs
reformulate your topic
who - what - where - when – why
3.Define search terms, Boolean operators, wildcards, truncation.
Define search terms:
Include synonyms, use a reference book (dictionary and thesaurus) to find synonyms, 
British vs American English spelling,
Subject Headings for books in the library system and thesauri of the databases [controlled vocabulary],
Hierachies - broader terms eg national symbols when searching for flags, narrower terms eg flags and anthems when searching  for national symbols,
Jargon in the field and plain English other related terms that may have evolved,
Add your subject to narrow down results, if necessary.
Define Boolean operators:
Combine your search terms with AND, OR or NOT.
OR broadens the search, NOT narrows the search.
The Advanced Search option in databases has rows with search options, linked by AND, OR and NOT.
The default  setting is AND.

Define wildcards and truncation:

A wildcard is a symbol used to replace or represent one or more characters.
Asterisk * add to end of word to retrieve variant endings
Number sign Hash # replace letter in a word
Quotation marks  "   "  create a phrase
Question mark ? replaces letters in a word
Reali#ation: realisation, realization
Globali#ation: globalization, globalisation
arch?4logy: archaeology, archeology
south* Africa*”: southern Africa, southern African, south Africans etc.