Why use it?
Truncation works in many search tools and can be useful if you want broaden or expand your search. Truncation finds plurals and alternate spellings of root words.
How it works:
Example: Let's say you are trying to find information on teen mentors. Rather than typing out all the variations of the word teen and all the variations of the word mentor:
(teen OR teens OR teenagers) AND (mentor OR mentors OR mentoring OR mentorship)
With truncation, you can insert a symbol at the root of your word which will find the same results:
teen* AND mentor*
The * searches for:
Truncation symbols can vary, but the most common one is an asterisk *(Shift + 8) on your keyboard.
Place the truncation symbol at the end of a root word (example: environment*) and the database will retrieve the root word plus all variant endings and plurals.
Variations of the truncation symbol: *, ?, $, !, #
Refer to the help guide of the search tool you are using to determine which truncation symbol to use.
As the tutorial below points out, avoid using truncation with short words, like cat*. While you will find all there is to know about cats, you will also end up with many irrelevant results for catapaults, catatonic, catastrophes, etc.
For more examples of using truncation, see the following animated tutorial created by Colorado State University Libraries: http://lib.colostate.edu/tutorials/truncation.html