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Library Lingo

Library Lingo

Glossary of Library and Research Terminology

Phone OCLS at 800-521-1848 if you still have questions about library or research terms.


A summary of the content of a document or article.
Adobe Acrobat®
Software that creates .pdf files. This allows documents to be created, distributed and read by any computer or operating system in its original format (or nearly so.)   For example an article can be scanned from the original source and transmitted to another computer.   The receiving computer can view the article as if it were looking at the original pages.   See: acrobat.adobe.com
Adobe Acrobat Reader®
A freeware software program, available for download at the Adobe site, that allows viewing of .pdf files on your computer.   See: get.adobe.com/reader
Advanced Catalog
Advanced CatalogThe advanced library catalog provides a search mode offering more options than one simple searchbox.   Advanced search mode is more difficult to use, but is essential for focusing your search results to just the highly relevant books or articles. Search engines such as Google offer advanced search modes, as do most journal databases offered by the university. For help with advanced search, phone an OCLS librarian at 800-521-1848.
A book or resource that provides statistics or facts. Example: infoplease.com
Applied Management Project; the management project is designed to demonstrate that a student has developed the ability to integrate a diverse education and several years of practical experience.
Annotated Bibliography
A list of works with descriptions and a brief summary or critical statement about each work.
A brief summary describing an entry in a bibliography or detailed database record.   Annotations are used to describe and evaluate a work.   Annotations should be brief (rarely longer than 150 words).
A style of writing that argues a certain point of view, using evidence to support the position.
A short written prose work such as found in an encyclopedia, periodical, web page, etc.
Material that is supported by evidence and accepted by most authorities in the field.


Bibliographic record
Information used for the identification of any source. For a typical printed book, a record consists of the author’s name, date of publication, title, city of publication, and publisher.
A list which identifies sources examined during research. Related concepts include annotated bibliography, reference, and working bibliography.
Boolean operators
Used to logically compare values or phrases. Examples include AND, OR, NOT and NEAR.
Boolean searching
A search strategy for finding specific information on your topic. Using Boolean operators you may combine search terms to find results. For example:
Term 1 AND Term 2     Sample: "General Electric" AND "Jeffrey Immelt"
You will find results containing both search terms.
Term 1 OR Term 2         Sample: "Junior High" OR "Middle School"
You will find results containing either search term.
Term 1 NEAR Term 2     Sample: "Library" Near/3 "Internet" You will find documents where the word "library" is within three words of the word "Internet."
Term 1 NOT Term 2       Sample: "Eating Disorders" NOT "bulimia" You will find results about eating disorders , but not bulimia.
A software program that allows you to view internet resources. Also called a web browser. Examples: Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox are browsers.


Call Number
The number and/or letter code which determines the location of a book on the library shelf. The number/letter code designates the subject classification of a book. The call number appears on the spine of the book and on the record in the online catalog. Be sure you have the complete call number to easily find the item on the shelf. Example: Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary has a call number of: 423 M551
Card Catalog
A file of records that tells you what materials the library owns and where the materials are stored. In the 1900's such library catalogs were maintained on index cards("History of the card catalog," 2015) to allow easy updating, hence the name "card catalog."
The process of preparing bibliographic records to enter into the library’s catalog.
Compact Disc-Read Only Memory; a data storage medium that is used to store information. A CD typically stores 700MB of data or 80 minutes of sound recording.
Check Out
To borrow materials from the library for a specified amount of time.
This acronym stands for Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health Literature. CINAHL Complete adds full-text articles to the indexing, resulting in one of the best databasees for nursing research.
Circulating Collection
The collection of materials which will check out of the library.
The information needed to describe and/or locate a particular book or article. A bibliographic or reference citation will usually contain information such as author’s name, title, date of publication, source, etc. An APA in-text citation provides only the first couple elements of a reference.
Cohort Group
Indiana Wesleyan groups all students into core groups. Your core group consists of your program abbreviation and a 3-4 digit number. Example: ASB 1542.
The accumulated group of all library materials.   Books and e-book material are accessible through the library catalog, magazines and journal articles are accessed through various databases, and some paper resources (such as archive documents) can only be used in the Jackson library building.
Controlled Vocabulary
A specified list of subject terms.
The legal provision of exclusive rights to reproduce and distribute a work.


Any electronically stored collection of data. OCLS offers academic databases providing articles and reports on many topics.
Database Vendor
The company that provides access to a particular database. Examples include: EBSCOHost, Emerald, Gale and ProQuest.
Interchangeable with "subject heading," ERIC and CINAHL use the term "descriptor” while library catalogs use "subject headings".
Dewey Decimal Classification System
The classification system by Melvil Dewey, first published in 1876, which divides knowledge into ten main classes, with further subdivisions, accompanied by decimal notation. Materials are placed in the library and are assigned a number from the Dewey Decimal System. The Jackson Library shelves its books using the Dewey Decimal System.
Dissertations and Theses
Provided by ProQuest, the Dissertations & Thesis Global database provides access to abstracts and citations for every title in their database.
Digital Object Identifier
The digital object identifier is a permanent identifier assigned to any piece of intellectual property on a digital network. The DOI number consists of both alpha and numeric characters. The DOI number is utilized in the APA writing style, on the references page. Example: doi:10.1080/01930826.2012.700801 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0361526X.2011.591040.
Original, independent research written and completed when obtaining a PhD.
See Digital Object Identifier
Due Date
The date assigned when books that are borrowed from the library must be returned.


Ebrary: A collection of electronic books from over 150 publishers covering all academic disciplines. Ebrary titles are listed in the library catalog.
A database vendor that provides access to newspaper, magazine, and journal articles, as well as e-books.
An article expressing an opinion on a current matter.
Electronic Books (E-Books)
Books available in an electronic format and can be accessed and read via your computer or handheld device. See:E-Book Publishers
E-mail Attachment
Files can be distributed by attaching a file to an email message. The attachment option is usually designated by an image of a paperclip
Emerald is a publisher of scholarly articles and books on management. In advanced search, one can limit search results to "My Subscribed Content" -- a useful limiter, as the University only purchased access to a subset of Emerald publications.
Data or information obtained through experiment, experience, or observation, and which can be verified.
One or more volumes containing informational articles on subjects. For examples of specialized academic encyclopedia articles, search: Virtual Reference Library
This acronym stands for Educational Resources Information Center. It is a computerized database including the following: abstracts of education journal articles and documents such as unpublished reports, dissertations, and government studies.
A literary composition in which the author analyzes or interprets a subject, often from a personal point of view. Academic essays typically have an introduction with a thesis statement, followed by paragraphs supporting the thesis with researched evidence, and concluding with the writer's observations.
A critical assessment of an information source.


Fair Use
Conditions under which copying is not an infringement of U.S. copyright law. See:copyright.gov
  1. A part of a database record that contains one piece of information. For example, the author field would contain the name of an author.
  2. An area of study. Examples include: law, business, education, etc.
The physical form in which information appears. Examples include paper, microfilm, microfiche, etc.
Full-Text Articles
Those articles in an online periodical index, e.g. Academic Search Complete, that include availability of the entire article. Sometimes pictures/graphics/charts/tables cannot be included, but just the actual text of the original article.
Full-Text Database
A database in which the full content or text, of the article is available for you to access and read immediately.


Gale produces databases for high school and college students, such as Biography in Context and Opposing Viewpoints.
General Information Sources
Sources providing general or background information. General information sources include handbooks, encyclopedias, and dictionaries. See: General Reference, Encyclopedias and Dictionaries
Government Information
Any document created by a local, state or national government organization. Often referred to as a government document, or a public document.


A successful match when searching the internet or a database. See also Result
See "Collection"
  1. By default, the first page you see when you log in to the Internet. See: How to Set the Home Page
  2. The term "homepage" also refers to the main webpage of a person or business. For example:
    The homepage for Indiana Wesleyan University is http://www.indwes.edu
    The Off Campus Library Services homepage is http://www2.indwes.edu/ocls
Hypertext markup language. Used for documents on the World Wide Web. Documents created with HTML rarely provide the standard page numbering used with quotations, one reason many researchers prefer documents in PDF format.
Hypertext transfer protocol. The client-server TCP/IP protocol used on the World Wide Web. Allows transfer of HTML documents. HTTPS indicates that security protocols are in place.


A list which will guide you to where information can be found. An index can be arranged by author, title, or subject. An index can also be a list at the end of books, encyclopedias, etc. that indicates by author, title and/or subject the location of information within the book or encyclopedia
Interlibrary Loan (ILL)
A system of agreements between libraries by which they will share their parts of their collections. If a patron wishes to have a book or article that is not available in his/her library, a librarian may arrange to borrow this item from another library. (Note: Please use IWU Library OCLS for interlibrary loan requests—not your local library.) The IWU ILL process allows students and faculty to place their own requests and to track the loan status.
Indiana Spectrum of Information Resources; A group of databases, mostly provided by vendors, which are provided through state funding to residents of the state of Indiana.
A global system of computer networks connected via TCP/IP protocols using a telecommunications system. The largest computer network in the world which links local networks operated by universities, governments, non-profit organizations, commerical organizations and other research institutions.
Issue Number
A single uniquely numbered or dated part of a periodical.


Jackson Library
The main library of Indiana Wesleyan University, located on the main campus in Marion, Indiana.
A periodical, especially one containing scholarly articles on research and development in a particular subject field.
Journal Holdings List
The list of journals which Jackson library has access to in some kind of format. These formats can be electronic access (Internet), but the journal articles might alternately be recorded on paper or microfilm. OCLS staff can scan and email paper or microfilm articles to your IWU email account. See Journal Title Search


The most significant word in the abstract, title, or text of a work which is used as a search term. Keywords can be used when searching a database, using your vocabulary instead of the system's controlled vocabulary. Keywords are often the most important word(s) in a title. Example: in the title Heart of Darkness, the keywords are "Heart" and "Darkness".
Kentucky Virtual Library; A group of databases, mostly provided by vendors, which are provided through state funding to residents of the commonwealth of Kentucky.


Lexis-Nexis Academic
A database which provides access to information from newspapers, journals, reference materials and legal documents.
Library Access Number (LAN)
The 14-digit number that is issued to all students for identification purposes. The number has been listed on student ID cards. Facilitators may request a number by contacting OCLS. The number is a part of the computer system at the IWU Library and allows library privileges at IWU. The number also allows access to a subscription databases that the university provides for student use. If you know your student ID, you may also generate your LAN
Library Consortium
A formal association of libraries.
Literature Review
A list of important works on a topic, with annotations for each work indicating why it is valuable. See "How to ... Carry Out a Literature Review...."
Literature Search
A search using various databases, library catalogs, or other means to locate citations on a topic.


A periodical for general reading, containing articles on various subjects by different authors. Masterfile Premier is an example of a database with many magazines.
Metasearch Engine
A website that allows you to search many search engines at one time. Examples of metasearch engines include:
A flat sheet of photographic film. Periodicals often store information on microfiche because many pages of material can be stored in this format. See Microform
Photographic film rolls housed on reels, cartridges or cassettes. Periodicals often store information on microfilm because many pages of material can be stored in this format. See Microform
Includes microfilm and microfiche. Microfilm is film that contains photographic images of information, e.g. pages of a journal. Microfiche are flat 4 inch by 6-inch sheets of photographic images. Microfilm is either 1 inch wide or approx. 3 inches wide and on a roll. Special machines are needed to read the reduced images and to print back to a paper format.
A book, especially a scholarly one, on a single subject.


Library materials which cannot leave the library. Some examples include reference materials, journals, microform, etc.


Off Campus Library Services (OCLS)
Off Campus Library Services provides non-residential students with immediate access to library resources for their research needs. Based in Jackson Library at Indiana Wesleyan University in Marion, the OCLS staff is prepared to serve the unique needs of adult learners.
Online Catalog
An electronic index to the library's book titles and periodical subscriptions.
Words such as AND, OR, and NOT that are used to combine search sets to broaden or narrow the results of a search. See Boolean Operators.
Opinion Sources
Sources that express the opinion of the author, such as blogs, book reviews, editorials, tweets. These are generally not authoritative sources.


An acronym for Private Academic Library Network of Indiana. A consortium of the private and independent colleges and seminaries in Indiana. These institutions allow for reciprocal borrowing among the member institutions. The catalogs of all these libraries are available over the internet. IWU library's holdings are not a part of the shared catalog of PALNI, but reciprocal borrowing is provided.
.PDF file
Portable document format used by Adobe Acrobat Reader®.   Used by OCLS to transmit scanned documents.   Obtain required reader from: get.adobe.com/reader
Also referred to as scholarly, academic, primary, refereed or technical journals. Usually an original publication (not previously published) that contains articles that have been reviewed by peers before acceptance by the journal for publication. Each article submission must fill a ‘gap’ of knowledge in that discipline area and must be substantial enough that those doing research from that article can add to the knowledge base. . Ulrich's Periodical Directory uses an icon to denote which journals are refereed.
Periodical Holdings
See Journal Holdings List
Periodical Index
A listing that cites the individual articles appearing in a selected group of periodicals.
The taking or copying of someone else’s words, ideas, thoughts, pictures, etc., and presenting them as your own. A document style such as APA defines ways to give credit to the ideas and quotations of others. A related legal concept is copyright.
Primary Sources
Original manuscripts, contemporary records, or documents which are used by an author in writing a book or other literary compilation. Also called "source material" or sometimes "original sources".
This database vendor provides access to full-text newspapers, like Wall Street Journal, and full-text magazine collections for nursing and education. ProQuest also provides access to Dissertations&Theses.
A book, periodical, musical score, etc. that has been "brought before the public," in other words, a work that has been printed and distributed.


The search terms and Boolean operators used to look in a database for information. OCLS librarians will help you develop effective queries.


A collection of related data fields. For example, a record for an article in a database might have information from the article's author, title, journal title, volume, and pages numbers fields. In most databases you have the ability to decide which fields of a record you would like to search.
An indication of where specific information can be found. Used interchangeably with citation. Example: a reference for an article provides information (journal name, issue, and page number) about how to locate the article.
Reference Collection
The non-circulating materials of a library (printed encyclopedias, etc.) which provide basic information about a topic. Reference books may only be used in the library, they do not check-out.
Refereed Journal
See Peer-Reviewed
An extension of the loan period for charged library materials. You can renew items by calling OCLS at 1-800-521-1848.
Extending a check-out for a period of time beyond the original due date.
Systematic, intensive searching conducted to discover new knowledge.
Research Article
A journal article that reports on original research. It may utilize different kinds of research, e.g. historical, action, descriptive, longitudinal, etc. The author(s) are the ones who did the research/experimentation, etc.   The article usually will be broken out into sections, including the purpose of the study, methodology, findings, conclusion, references. These kinds of articles are usually found in peer-reviewed journals. See also: empirical or peer-reviewed.
Research Strategy
The methodology or plan followed to find information on a subject or research topic.
A query to a database generates a result list, generally a list of articles, bibliographic records or images. Each item on the list is a result.


Written by academics such as college professors and graduate students for an audience of university professors and students. See also: Peer--Reviewed.
The content of a work; what is included and what is excluded.
Secondary Source
Books or articles that explain or analyze primary sources. Example: A History of Literary Criticism.
See Literature Search
Search Directory
An internet directory that allows you to search for categorized information. Search directories list information by subject. Good search directories to use are:
Search Engine
A website that allows you to perform keyword searches of the internet to locate information. Good search engines to use are:
A publication that is issued in parts indefinitely over time. Examples: journals, periodicals, magazines, almanacs, etc.
When conducting a search in a database, the results of the search form a set.
Subject Area
Any field, such as nursing, business, education, etc, that studies a particular topic. The OCLS Article Database List is divided by subject areas.
Subject Heading
The specific word or phrase used to find a book or article on a specific topic in a catalog or magazine index. Descriptor


Table of Contents
A list of the contents of a work; usually found at the beginning of a book, periodical or magazine. To determine the usefulness of a book for your research project, it is useful to skim the table of contents.
Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol; the language governing communications between all computers on the Internet.
Internet standard protocol for remote login using a text interface. Runs on top of TCP/IP. It acts as a terminal emulator.
Tertiary Source
Sources that contain information that is a distillation and/or collection of primary and secondary sources. Examples include encyclopedias, handbooks, indexes.
A tool that leads from one word or term to other related terms. Roget's Thesaurus was developed as a list of synonyms or conceptually similar words. A database thesaurus helps determine the subject term that should be used for searching a topic; it will list synonyms used by the database for a search term. Used extensively for searching databases such as ERIC or CINAHL.
The main idea or argument of a paper.
Topic: The broad subject content of a paper, article, book, etc.
In database or internet searching, to cut the search term short to retrieve all terms with a common root. Example: If looking for articles on assessment, you would truncate to assess*. This would tell the database to search for all terms beginning with the letters assess, such as assess, assesses, assessing, assessed, assessment, etc.


Uniform Resource Locator; the web address of a website. Example: https://www.google.com is the URL for the Google homepage.


See: Database Vendor
Contains the total collection of all sequential issues of a serial over a given time period.


Wireless Fidelity; Wireless networking. Allows your computer to access the internet via radio signals.
Wildcards are used in the middle of a word to find variants of terms. Each database has its own symbol for indicating a wildcard, but it is most frequently a question mark, “?”. Example: Wom?n would find articles containing the word women or woman.
World Wide Web
World Wide Web. Internet client-server hypertext method of distributing information on the internet.


Hutchison, N. B. (2004, July). Library jargon: Student recognition of terms and concepts commonly used by librarians in the classroom. College & Research Libraries, 65, 349-354.

International DOI Foundation. (2006). The DOI handbook. Retrieved May 29, 2008, from http://www.doi.org/handbook_2000/intro.html#1.3

Learn the Net: Glossary. (2005). Retrieved March 2005 from www.learnthenet.com

Library lingo: Some common library terms defined. (n.d.). The University of Texas at San Antonio Library. Retrieved April 15, 2004, from http://www.lib.utsa.edu/Research/Subject/lingo.html

Pemberton, A. & Fritzler, P. (2004, March). The language barrier: Don’t let library lingo get in the way of learning. College & Research Libraries News, 65, 154-155.

Platoff, A. (1999). Library lingo: Useful phrases to know when using the library. Arizona State University. Retrieved April 14, 2004, from http://www.asu.edu/lib/help/liblingo.htm

Understanding library lingo. (n.d.). University Library: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Retrieved April 2, 2013, from http://www.library.illinois.edu/ugl/howdoi/lingo.html

Young, H. (1983). The ALA glossary of library and information science. Chicago:American Library Association.