Many library databases (e.g., Academic Search Complete) and online search engines (e.g., Yahoo!, Google) support exact phrase searching by surrounding the phrase in quotation " " marks. By placing the phrase in quotation marks, it instructs the database or search engine to look for the terms together and in the order typed.
Many search technologies do not perform intact phrase searches unless the user instructs them to do so. For example, a Google search on no child left behind produces far more hits, many of them irrelevant, than the same search on the phrase "no child left behind". By excluding the quotation marks, the user is allowing the search engine to return matches not only on the phrase "no child left behind," but he is also opening up the search to return matches on any pages that contain the terms no and child and left and behind, in other words, with all terms present in any order whatsoever.
If the database or search engine does not support the use of quotation marks " ", the user can often go to the "Advanced Search" screen where the option to do an exact phrase search is given.
Wildcard and Truncation Keys
Wildcard and truncation keys can help fine tune your searches by adding an extra level of precision to your search terms and phrases. Both allow the user to search for variations of words and phrases (e.g., singulars and plurals) through the addition of a single special character.
? (Wildcard Key) - replaces a single character (e.g., c?ts for cats, cots, cuts and so on. May be used more than once in the same word and can usually be located anywhere in the word.)
* (Truncation Key) - replaces multiple characters (e.g., comput* for computer, computers, computed, computation and so on. Is only used once in the word and only at the end.)
NOTE: Not every database uses the same special characters as those listed above for wildcard and truncation keys. If the character you use does not work, look at the databases "Help" pages for assistance.