After our tip on Truncation earlier this week, someone asked how they could search for bank, banked, banker and banking, without also retrieving bankrupt and bankruptcy. Truncation won't work, because a search for bank! would retrieve all words beginning with the root of "bank" including bankrupt and bankruptcy.
Both Westlaw and LexisNexis use the asterisk (*) as a wildcard or universal character, to replace a single character. For example, sw*m would retrieve swim, swam and swum. The asterisk can be used anywhere within or at the end of a search term, but it cannot be used to replace the first character. Use one asterisk for each character you want to replace.
Used within a search term, the wildcard requires that a character appear in that position. Therefore, you cannot use a wildcard to retrieve both the U.S. judgment and the English judgement. A search for judg*ment would retrieve only the English spelling of judgement. However, a search for bernst**n would find both the ei and the ie spelling of the name.
When you place wildcards at the end of a search term, they do not all have to be filled. The number of wildcards you use merely specifies the maximum length of the search term. So, a search for bank*** would retrieve bank, banked, banker and banking, but it would not retrieve the longer words, bankrupt and bankruptcy because bank*** can only retrieve words with three or fewer letters after the root of "bank".
Archive of Research Tips