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Health Information Management

Search with Truncation & Wildcards


                                   Decorative Image of Truncation symbols

Symbols are not universal – check database help as needed


Offers a way to easily search for words with multiple endings or within words or word groups.

Asterisk (*):

  • Search for variant word endings
    • use in PubMed, CINAHL, and ProQuest
    • e.g.  mimic* finds mimic, mimics, mimicking, etc.
  • Use within words to find multiple variant characters
    • can use in CINAHL and ProQuest
    • e.g. equ*y finds equity, equitability, equality, equally
  • Use between words to find variant single words
    • can use in CINAHL only
    • e.g. nursing * education finds nursing education, nursing diabetes education, nursing and education


Use symbols to replace a single character, can use in middle or end of word.

Question Mark (?)

  • Use in CINAHL and ProQuest
    • e.g. Wom?n finds women or woman
    • e.g. Assistan?? finds assistance or assistants
  • PubMed does not support wildcards


  • cannot be used as the first character of a search term
    • e.g. ?ffect

Phrase Search

                                                              Decorative image of quotation marks

Place phrases in Quotations Marks

  • can use in CINAHL, PubMed, and ProQuest
  • e.g. “Health expenditures” or “intensive care unit” or "Calgary Family Assessment"

Caveat: Turns off auto mapping and auto explode in PubMed

Proximity Searching

Decorative image of proximity search symbols

Proximity searching allows for searching for two or more terms within a certain number of words of each other.


Use N# or N/# or NEAR/# if the words can appear in any order


  • e.g. N3 finds the words if they are a max of 3 words apart from one another, regardless of the order in which they appear.

  • insurance N3 reimbursement will find results like:

    • insurance reimbursement

    • insurance for reimbursement

    • reimbursement practices of insurance companies

    • insurance approval and reimbursement

ProQuest: (N/# or NEAR/#)

  • ProQuest searching works the same as CINAHL but the symbols are different.
  • e.g. insurance N/3 reimbursement
  • insurance NEAR/3 reimbursement


Within or PRE:

Use W# or PRE/p if you want the words in a specific order


  • e.g. W4 finds words that are within 4 words of one another, in the order entered.
  • Covid W4 protocols will find results like those below but will not find protocols for Covid
    • COVID-19 pandemic and public health protocols

    • COVID-19 related protocols

ProQuest: (PRE/# or P/#)

  • ProQuest searching works the same as CINAHL but the symbols are different.
  • e.g. Covid PRE/4 protocols
  • Covid P/4 protocols

Using Boolean Operators


  • Use AND to indicate that all of the search terms must be present in an article. 
  • Great way to get more specific results
  • e.g. searching for Madonna AND church means that articles must contain the word madonna and the word church to show up in the results. 
    • For example, if the circle on the left represents articles containing the word Madonna, and the circle on the right includes articles containing the word church, the shaded area shows the results for a search for Madonna AND church

Madonna Venn diagram image of overlapping circles with green shading in the overlapped sectionchurch


  • Use OR to indicate either of the terms should be included in the results. Use OR between synonyms or related terms
  • e.g. a search for Madonna OR church would result in
    • articles that mention the word madonna but do not include the word church
    • any articles that include the word church but do not include the word madonna
    • articles that include both the word madonna and the word church

Madonna Venn diagram image of 2 overlapping circles with both circles shaded in green church


  • Use NOT to exclude articles with a different meaning or an unwanted concept
  • For example, if your results include articles on the Virgin Mary, when you are actually looking for articles on the singer Madonna, search for Madonna NOT Virgin Mary to exclude them. (Be careful, may also exclude any articles dealing with the relationship between the singer and the church.)

Madonna Venn diagram with 2 overlapping circles with green shading in left circle only. Virgin Mary

Expanding Your Search

                               Image with text stating Search Results: 1 -1  of 1

Not enough (or any) articles on your topic? 

Here are some tips to find more results:

  • Check spelling
  • Use synonyms or related words
    • e.g. ethics OR morals OR principles
  • Use truncation
  • Search for broader, less-specific terms
    • e.g. consider health care personnel rather than the more specific nurses
  • Expand date range if possible

Narrowing Your Search

       Image texts states Search Results 1-10 of 1,252,823

Too many results?  Or results not focused on your topic?

  • Try a subject search instead of a keyword search
  • Limit your keyword search to the abstract or title
  • Try Phrase searching
  • Add terms to your search using the Boolean "AND" operator
  • Try narrowing dates of publication

Search Tips Handout