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Guide to Research and Writing for the Academic Study of Religion


If you have a keyword that has many variations, you can use truncation to gather them all in one search. To truncate, you must find the common part of the word and follow it with a symbol for truncation. Most systems including the library search box  use an asterisk (*). For example, if you wanted records about Britain and the British, the correct truncation would be Brit* . For Islam and Islamic, the correct truncation would be Islam*.

However, truncation will sometimes capture too many words. For example, not only does Hindu* return all records with Hindu, Hindus, and Hinduism, it also returns every record published by the Hindustan Publishing Corporation. This is impossible to completely avoid but can be limited by truncating your words as little as necessary. For instance, if you truncate down to Hind* in order to include Hindi and Hinduism in your search, you will also include any source by authors such as Colin Hindmarch and Judy Hindley, titles such as Does Entry Regulation Hinder Job Creation and Spectroelectrochemistry of Some Sterically-hindered Metalloporphyrins, and any books listed under the subject headings of Hindenberg or hindlimb. This problem will be minimized when searching with more than one search term or choosing only one search field (see field searching).

Other examples:

  • Buddh* - will capture Buddhism, Buddha, Buddhist, Buddhists, and Buddhahood
  • Buddhi* - will capture Buddhism, Buddhist, and Buddhists
  • Buddhist* - will capture Buddhist and Buddhists
  • Method* - will capture method, methods, methodology




Wildcards are similar to truncation except that they allow variation in the middle of a word. A wildcard is a symbol that allows one or more letters to vary (depending on the system). One of the most common examples is wom?n which captures all records that have the word woman or women. This function is also useful for when you are unsure of the spelling of a word, especially an author’s name. If you can not remember if an author's name was "Steven Jones" or "Steven Jonas" then entering Steven Jon?s will capture both options. Databases differ however and the symbol used for a wildcard and up to how many letters that wildcard represents varies.

In the University of Calgary Library  Search Box, the wildcard is ‘?’ and represents one letter. 

  • Colo?r - will capture color and colour