Searching with wildcards can quickly expand results by including alternate forms of a word. The two most common wildcards are the question mark and asterisk. While databases can vary in how they implement wildcards, this post will highlight the most common usages.
The question mark replaces one, and exactly one character. Searching for “wom?n” will return results like “woman,” “women,” and “womyn.” However, searching for “dog?” would return results like “dogs” and “doge” but not “dog.” You can also use more than one question mark in a search string, for example “go??” would return terms like “goat,” “good,” “gone,” and “gods.”
The asterisk replaces zero to multiple characters (the exact number often differs by database). Using the asterisk is excellent for searching variations of a word. Searching “sustain*” will return results like “sustained,” “sustains,” “sustaining,” and “sustainment.” For maximum variation searches like “*resolv*” would return anything from “unresolved” to “resolving” to “resolve.” However, it is worth noting you might not be able to begin a search with a wildcard.
Finally, while wildcards are a great way to expand your search and to help with spelling issues, like ols?n, using wildcards may eliminate relevance ranking because the database will not be able to determine which word variation is the most important to you. So be sure to use wildcards appropriately.