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Library Glossary: Glossary



Confused by all the library terminology?

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  • Abstract - a short summary of a document that can either appear at the beginning of the document or in an index. Indexes that include abstracts are often themselves called abstracts (i.e., Historical Abstracts, Social Work Abstracts).
  • Article – see Journal Article
  • Attribution – information given about the author, source, and license to re-use a work, such as an image or video.
  • Authority – a type of influence associated with the degree to which a source is recognized as credible within a community, based on its/their perceived expertise, trustworthiness, and respectability.
  • Boolean searching - is a way to combine keywords using AND, OR and NOT (also known as Boolean Operators) to search a database or search engine. Keywords can be combined in three ways. Each will result in a different set of search results
    • *AND: *concept one AND concept two (results include both concepts
    • *OR: *concept one OR concept two (results include either concept)
    • *NOT: *concept one NOT concept two (results include the first concept but not the second)
  • Catalog - a library catalog is a searchable list of all of the materials in a Library’s collection. These items may include books, e-books, DVDs, CDs, and other physical or electronic materials. You will not find journal articles or complete journals in a library catalog.
  • Citation -  A standardized way of documenting the sources of information you use in your work. For example, citation information for a journal article would typically consist of author(s), date, article title, journal title, volume, issue, and page numbers.
  • Chaining – also known as citation chaining, is a research strategy of tracing a topic either backward or forward by following a chain of linked articles that either cited or were cited by a particular work.
  • Copyright – a law that protects the exclusive right of authors of published works to reproduce, make derivative works, distribute copies, perform, and publicly display the work, as well as the right to authorize others to exercise these rights.
  • Database - A database is an organized collection of information that can be searched by a computer. A library research database is a searchable, organized collection of resources that help meet the research needs of the library's users. These databases contain information about and full-text copies of various types of resources such as articles, images, videos, and eBooks.
  • Discipline a branch of knowledge, for example, business, nursing, sociology, or technology.
  • Fair Use – Exception to copyright based on a) purpose and character of the use; b) nature of the copyrighted work; c) amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the work as a whole; d) effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the work.
  • Field - part of a record used to record a specific category of data (i.e., title field, author field, subject field).
  • Format - the digital and physical form of a publication (i.e., PDF, print, microfiche, CD-ROM, pic, audio, or video recording).
  • Full-text database -See Database.

  • Index - lists or contains bibliographic citations to articles or full-text articles (and sometimes reports, dissertations, book reviews, books, and chapters of books). Indexes are organized so that the citations or full-text articles can be searched by subject (and often by author, title, keyword, date, etc.) They usually specialize in a specific discipline, geographic area, or type of material indexed, but they can be multidisciplinary. Indexes are available in print and electronic formats.
  • Interdisciplinary – drawing on knowledge from several fields, such as sociology, psychology, and economics. Academic Search Ultimate is an example of an interdisciplinary database because it contains works from a variety of disciplines.
  • Information Literacy - “Information literacy is the set of integrated abilities encompassing the reflective discovery of information, the understanding of how information is produced and valued, and the use of information in creating new knowledge and participating ethically in communities of learning.”
  • Journal - also known as an academic journal, a scholarly journal, or a periodical. A journal is a collection of scholarly and/or peer-reviewed articles. Journals usually focus on a single academic discipline or aspect of a discipline and are usually published several times a year. They are sometimes referred to as periodicals because they are published on a periodic basis.
  • Journal article - also known as a scholarly article. Journal articles are written by researchers or experts in a field in order to share the results of their original research or analysis with other researchers and students. These articles often go through a process known as peer review, where the article is reviewed by a group of experts in the field.
  • Journal Database - See Database.
  • Keywords – The main ideas in a research question or topic. As opposed to longer sentences and questions (natural language), keywords are shorter terms and phrases that are used as search terms in a database or search engine.
  • Literature – written works, especially those considered of lasting artistic merit.
  • Literature Review – a summary of a combination of parts or elements from the literature you have read.
  • OneSearch – Excelsior Library's OneSearch Discovery Search tool allows you to search most of the Library's databases at one time. OneSearch is powered by EBSCO and utilizes the company's EBSCOhost search interface.
  • Open Access – Research articles and other works that are published online free of barriers to access, such as costs to users.
  • Open Education - encompasses resources, tools, and practices that are free of legal, financial, and technical barriers and can be fully used, shared, and adapted in the digital environment. Open Education - SPARC (
  • Open Educational Resources (OER) - teaching, learning, and research resources that are free of cost and access barriers and which also carry legal permission for open use. Open Education - SPARC (
  • Primary Source - a person with direct knowledge of some information or event, or a document (including text, speech, media, or another artifact) they produced. Examples can include diaries, original documents, original research, photographs, speeches, and works of art.

  • Peer Review – a process by which scholarly works are vetted and approved by experts other than the author before publication. It is used to determine if the academic work is of sufficient quality to merit publication.

  • Plagiarism - “the act of passing off another person’s ideas, writing, or other work as one’s own. Plagiarism can occur in writing or audio-visual format. It can occur in small portions of a student’s work or in the entire submission. Plagiarism can be either intentional or accidental but is a breach of academic integrity regardless.” Excelsior University Academic Integrity Policy

  • Record - an electronic representation of an information item in a database (a journal article in a journal database or a library item in a library catalog). Each item is represented by one record in the database. In full-text databases, each record includes an entire article.
  • Reference - Reference or tertiary sources compile or organize primary and secondary sources. Examples include dictionaries, encyclopedias, handbooks, etc.  The term may also refer to a citation of a source or a service that assists people with questions about library resources.
  • Repository - an archive for collecting, preserving, and sharing an academic institution’s scholarly output. This includes work by students and faculty, such as research projects, journal articles, presentations, and much more.  
  • Research -  The Oxford Learner's Dictionary defines research as "a careful study of a subject, especially in order to discover new facts or information about it." The Frascati Manual defines research as "creative and systematic work undertaken in order to increase the stock of knowledge -- including knowledge of humankind, culture and society -- and to devise new applications of available knowledge." The Association of College and Research Libraries describes research as inquiry: "Research is iterative and depends upon asking increasingly complex or new questions whose answers, in turn, develop additional questions or lines of inquiry in any field."
  • Scholarly article -also known as a journal article. Scholarly articles are written by researchers or experts in a field in order to share the results of their original research or analysis with other researchers and students. These articles often go through a process known as peer review where the article is reviewed by a group of experts in the field.
  • Search statement - a combination of keywords and Boolean operators that is used to search a database.  For example, (“global warming” OR “climate change”) AND “carbon emissions”
  • Secondary source – a report or other work that relies on primary sources for information.
  • Serial - a term that describes a wide range of publications that are issued in successive parts with no predictable end in sight. Magazines, journals, newspapers, annual reports, some conference proceedings, and annual reviews are all examples of serials.
  • Source – a text or other work that provides the information being used.
  • Synthesizing information  taking different pieces of information and seeing how they interact or support one another.
  • Tertiary source - a collection of information that may have multiple volumes, such as an encyclopedia.
  • Truncation - databases often offer the option of using a special symbol at the end of a root in order to retrieve various words using that root. For example, searching environment* in a database or library catalog will retrieve environments, environmental, and environmentally. BEWARE of truncating a work too early. For instance, stat? would retrieve statistics, statistically, stature, statue, state, states, stately, stationary, etc. To determine the truncation symbol used in a particular database, check the cheat sheet for that database.