Skip to Main Content

Library Research Skills for Biologists


How can I use this?

Truncation is another technique which allows you to expand your search results.

What is truncation?

What is truncation?

Truncation is another technique you can use to expand your search results. If you were looking for books about shrubs, you might use the Boolean operator OR to capture all of the variations in the word by typing in shrub OR shrubs OR shrubbery. Another way to find word variations is to type the stem of the word followed by a truncation symbol. Instead of the Boolean operator search, you could use truncation and type in: shrub* for the same results.

Here are some examples of truncation:

  • pipet* (finds pipet, pipets, pipette, pipettes, pipeting, pipettor)
  • botan* (finds botany, botanist, botanists, botanical)
  • enzym* (finds enzyme, enzymes, enzymatic, enzymology)
  • E* coli (finds E. coli, Escherichia coli)

Unfortunately, truncation symbols vary depending on the search system you are using.

  • In Summon, the truncation symbol is *
  • In the UBC Library catalogue, the truncation symbol is the question mark ?.

Check out the Help feature of a system or tool to find its truncation symbol.

Caution! Don't truncate too early . . .

If you're looking for books about cats, and you type "cat*", not only will you find cat and cats, you will also find catapults, cations, categories, and worst of all, catastrophe!

Image credits:

[1] Jennifer C. 2009. 225 [online]. Available from [accessed 22 May 2012].