Hopefully, you know that most databases permit right-hand truncation or word stemming using a special character, usually an asterisk or question mark. For example, in Web of Science, searching for ‘biodegrad*’ would retrieve references with biodegrade, biodegradation, biodegraded, etc. Truncating words is perhaps the simplest way to ensure more complete retrieval of relevant records.
However, very few large databases permit left-hand truncation as well which allows retrieval of word roots with varying prefixes. As of late this summer, this is now possible in the Web of Knowledge and Web of Science. It can be used alone or with right-hand truncation.
The query ‘*degrad*‘ now retrieves degradation, photodegradated, biodegrade, etc. Left-hand truncation might not be something you need every day, but it cam be a powerful tool in creating more comprehensive searches. We are not aware of another current, major interdisciplinary database or platform that has a left-hand truncation feature.