Frustrated when your librarian or professor tells you to try doing a "Boolean" search? Or when a librarian gives you a "call number" that's just a bunch of random letters and numbers? Baffled by "primary" versus "secondary sources"? This guide should help clear up a lot of that confusion! And just ask your librarian if you still don't know what something is that's not listed here, or if you want something further explained.
a summary of the contents of a book or article, generally a sentence to a paragraph in length.
also known as scholarly journal, a collection of articles in one academic publication, written by scholars and experts in a particular field. They are generally serial publications and the most authoritative ones are peer-reviewed.
a bibliography, or list of your sources, that includes a summary or evaluation of each source you used. Here is the Annotated Bibliographies page in our Citation Guide.
a library collection of “archived” rare and/or less often used material, often historical documents or records, sometimes located in a separate, safe area.
in regards to a source, it means it's reliable, and it can be trusted to be accurate and true. Some examples of things that make a source more authoritative are a list of the author's credentials, a list of the sources they used, being peer-reviewed, and being published in an academic journal.
a list of the books and articles referenced in a scholarly work, often a page at the end of the work.
“AND” indicates both keywords must be present in the search results (which narrows down your search results).
“OR” indicates that either term (or both) may be present in the search results (which gives you more results).
“NOT” indicates that while one term is present in the search results, another cannot be (which narrows down your search results).
the mark on the spine of a library material or listed in the library catalog that indicates the book’s location in the library. Academic libraries use the Library of Congress classification system, with its call number rules (example: William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice is PR2825 .A2 Q5.) More information here.
a complete list of items and resources (books, articles, films, etc.) in a systematic order, often accessed via computer software and online. (These used to be compiled of hundreds or thousands of index cards filed in chests with little alphabetized drawers!)
a quote from or reference to an outside source, like a book or article. In academic papers, a citation includes the information one would need to find the source, like the author, title, periodical or publisher, publication year, etc.
an author’s qualifications, including degrees, awards, publications, occupation, job position, background, and experience.
an organized collection of data, or records, entered into a computer program organized by fields. In libraries, it most often refers to a collection of articles and other digital materials, including their abstracts and bibliographic information, and sometimes their full texts. The library has many different databases, often following a general subject, like literature or science; there are even databases of films instead of articles.
a website or webpage that lists an index of other websites/webpages, most often browsed by subject or a search.
in a library or publishing field, a delay of the publication of an article’s full text in databases following its print publication.
an alphabetical list of words and phrases found in a specific text or subject, along with their definitions (like a mini dictionary).
an alphabetical listing of book or article citations, typically at the end of a work. With databases and websites, it can also refer to a set of items, each of which with records of a file (or webpage) and information about it.
the abilities to recognize when information is needed, and to discover, understand, and use information, all to participate in learning environments and become a lifelong learner.
the aspect of a computer program or website that allows the user to interact with the computer. So an online database’s interface would be the way it allows the user to search for and retrieve information, not the way it works behind the scenes.
short for International Standard Book Number, it’s a unique 10 or 13 digit number assigned to books and similar items.
short for International Standard Serial Number, it’s a unique 8 digit number assigned to serial publications like journals and book series.
the system that academic libraries generally use to classify and organize their materials. The cataloged materials are assigned an LOC subject heading and call number, along with the title, author, etc. This classification system allows materials to be organized and shelved in a consistent manner. More information here.
a word or phrase assigned to a book or other material by the LOC so that they can be classified and retrieved by that subject. The subject heading is usually a noun, like “schools”, “nuclear physics”, “local taxation”, etc. Subject headings can also be more detailed and specific by being inverted with a comma to add an adjective to the noun, or by using dashes to add subdivisions. (examples: “art, Polynesian” and “United States—Armed Forces”) More information here.
see search limiters
anyone who uses the library, whether student, faculty, staff, or community member.
when an article (or other publication) has been reviewed for accuracy and relevance by scholars and experts in the work’s field before it is published (most often in an academic journal). So, literally reviewed by an author’s peers in his/her field.
a publication issued periodically, often a journal, magazine, or newspaper.
a permanent, unchangeable URL to a resource or webpage in an online database or website. These are often available to copy when you get to a resource or page through a search and end up with a strange dynamic URL full of characters like ?, %, &, =.
records and material that are direct, first-hand evidence of an event or object of study. They are recorded at the time of the event, like letters, government documents, photographs, artifacts, and field data. In literature studies, an original novel like Pride and Prejudice could be considered a primary source, while your secondary sources would be critical studies, examinations, and reviews of the work.
related items of information which are handled as one unit in a database or website. A record is comprised of fields, individual pieces of data such as title, author, publisher, and call number—which would make the record one of a book or other library material.
a library section containing books and materials that are fact-based, such as encyclopedias, atlases, and dictionaries.
frequently used materials, most often course textbooks, requested or placed by instructors. They cannot be checked out to leave the library. (It is not recommended that that these are relied on for full-time textbook use, as the libraries aren’t open 24/7, and we can’t guarantee availability.)
see academic journal
a program or website that searches in a database or on the internet for results that match keywords entered by the user (e.g. Google). Search engines maintain an index of databases or other websites, so they can automatically send out bots to search those databases/websites for results.
books, articles, and other sources that provide information about a past event, another work, or really any object of study. They often give overviews, interpret the events or works, are critical studies, examinations, or reviews, and are not first-hand evidence (those would be primary sources).
a collection of books and materials on subjects of special interest to the library’s patrons, like popular fiction or local history.
what librarians call the main area of bookcases, the main part of the library’s book collection. “In the stacks” means in the labyrinth of giant bookcases.
a word or phrase assigned to a book or other material so that they can be classified and retrieved by that subject.