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Glossary of Library Lingo (terms): Alphabetical List of Terms

Use this glossary to find definitions, examples, and context for library and/or research-related terms.


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A short summary of the essential information of a book, article, or paper. Examining an abstract helps you determine if an item is relevant without having to read the whole thing thus saving you time.

abstract example

Annotated Bibliography

A list of citations that includes a brief summary or evaluation for each item.

Example (in MLA style):

annotated bibliography example

Other Examples:

From Purdue University -

From Cornell University -

APA Style

The American Psychological Association’s guidelines for citing sources.


apa citation example


Has acknowledged expertise in an area of knowledge. To determine whether a source is authoritative you could ask yourself these questions: Who is the author? What are the author’s credentials? Do the credentials match the topic being covered?

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A list of citations that stands alone or is found at the end of a paper, article, chapter, or book. These lists attribute ideas and intellectual property to the original authors and allow for the verification and location of information and sources. Depending on the citation style this list could be called Works Cited or References.

Example (in APA style):

references example


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Call Number

A unique identifier (like a street address) given to library items so that they can be easily found. The call number (identifier) is a combination of letters and numbers found both on the physical item and in the online record. Call numbers can be written horizontally or vertically. Items about the same subject often have similar call numbers. The last four numbers are the year of publication. For more information, look at Understanding Call Numbers.




A comprehensive set of records describing and listing the items of a collection.

Example: Milner Library Catalog is a list of the records of all the items Milner Library owns.


  1. The information needed to clearly identify and verify a source. This information is used to credit ideas and intellectual property to the original author(s) and to allow for the verification of the source.
    See Also:
    In-text Citation
  2. The process of identifying for the audience the sources of information and evidence used in a text. Ethical and responsible writers and speakers routinely document all outside sources within the body of the text and in a separate listing. - General Education shared definition

Example (in MLA style):

mla citation example

Citation Style

A precise way of arranging the information needed to identify an item. Entities (organizations, publications, or fields of study) do this to create consistency within their publications, but each entity has its own style.


Protection and legal rights provided by the laws of the United States [title 17, U.S. Code] to the authors of “original works.” These include literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and other intellectual works. This can affect how students and faculty access and use information for their research.


  1. Worthy of belief or confidence; trustworthy, reliable. Sometimes you might have to look up information about an author or source to verify that it is legitimate and considered accurate. You could use Google Scholar to look up an author’s credentials or Ulrich’s Periodical to verify a journal or magazine.
  2. The speaker’s competence to make the claim, as perceived by the listeners. – General Education shared definition


Belonging to the present time or being in progress. This usually refers specifically to the date an item was created. You would need to ask yourself if something is current based on genre, context, situation, and assignment. Current for cutting edge scientific topics could be less than one year. Current for a historical event could be 10 years. Something published in the last 1-5 years is generally considered current.


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A searchable set of records. The set of records could be for articles, books, images, etc. Catalogs are considered a type of database.

Examples of databases:

Milner Library Catalog
Lexis Nexis

Examples of article databases:

Academic Search Premier
Web of Knowledge


Book and article citations provide basic information like author(s) of the work, title of the work, and publication information. Each type of information is called a field and is represented in a specific and consistent place.


Author field = Orwell, George

Title field = 1984


When an entire item is available. This typically refers to a whole item being available online (full-text online). Sometimes spelled fulltext or full text.

Free Web

The parts of the internet that is available for free and can be accessed by anyone. This also where any one can publish onto the web. Free web search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo...) search only this portion of online items.


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Hidden (or deep) Web

Parts of the internet (typically databases of some sort) unavailable through conventional search engines, like Google or Yahoo. One must pay, subscribe, login or know the direct url to visit these sites and databases.


Library Databases
Academic Search Premiere

Information Fluency

  1. An information fluent individual is able to critically think while engaging with and creating information and utilizing technology.
  2. Specifically, an information fluent individual is able to: 1) Recognize the need for information; 2) Formulate a plan to obtain the information including appropriate technologies to be used; 3) Discover, identify, and retrieve information from multiple venues and in multiple formats; 4) Evaluate and select relevant and credible information; 5) Synthesize obtained information or create new information using various technologies; and 6) Present or publish an information product to an audience using an appropriate platform.

In-text Citations

Brief mention of an author or source, within the body of a paper, to credit their quotes or ideas. A full reference at the end of the paper or in the notes is still required.
See Also: Citation


In today's business work environment, middle managers are no longer recognized for solid or advanced skills that may be seen as 'finite' but perceived within a context based on the ebbs and flow of a global economy (Sennett, 2006, p.11). Individuals hoping to climb the business management ladder...

"Websites like Google, Facebook and others offer free services that are designed to help people take part in society, but at a hefty cost: You volunteer your personal information to companies and that valuable data accumulates" ("Surveillance Society," 2010, p. 14). Every citizen should be concerned about how their digital lives are being tracked...

For service-learning to be truly effective with in the college environment, it needs to be much more then an assignment to be checked off at the end of a semester. Research shows that students who are immersed within a service-learning experience for a period of time gain more from the experience both personally as well as professionally (Brower 11).


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Keyword Search

A word(s) or phrase(s) entered into a database search screen. The database brings back all records in which that exact word or phrase appears. The word or phrase may be located anywhere in the record (title, abstract, full text, topic, etc.)

Library Research

Using sources such as books and articles to collect information on a topic. This is different from primary research because no original experiments or tests are performed in library research.

Library Resources

These are items available through the library. These could be books, articles, dvds, images, maps, and more. These items have been reviewed, selected, paid for and made available by library staff.

MLA Style

The Modern Language Association’s guidelines for citing sources.


mla citation example


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Approved by a panel of experts in the field of study before being accepted for publication. This could also be called a "refereed" or "scholarly" source. See Also: Scholarly Journal


Using or closely imitating another person’s ideas, text, or work and presenting it as your own without proper acknowledgement of the original source. Can you identify plagiarism?

Popular Magazine

A publication containing articles on a variety of topics, written by various authors in a non-scholarly or general interest style. Most magazines are heavily illustrated, contain advertising, and are printed on glossy paper. The articles are usually short (less than five pages long), frequently unsigned, and tend not to include a bibliography or list of references.


Psychology Today
Popular Mechanic

Primary Source

  1. Original material containing information with first-hand accounts of historical events, practices, conditions, or original research. Primary sources are from the time period that it being studied and have not been filtered through historical interpretation or evaluation.
    See also: Primary/Secondary Sources (by Discipline) Table
  2. The process of accumulating evidence from first-hand observation and investigation. Primary sources include the examination of original texts, observations, surveys, interviews, laboratory experiments, and so on.


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Information about an item that is organized in data fields and is searchable.

record example


  1. A source that is cited on a works cited or references page
  2. Assistance from a librarian that helps you find items
  3. A Bibliography page in APA style is titled "References"


Closely related to the subject or issue. Ask yourself: Is the information in this source actually related to my topic and thesis statement?


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Scholarly Journal

A publication devoted to a specific field of knowledge. Journal articles are usually written by the person(s) who conducted the research. Longer than most magazine articles, they almost always include a bibliography or list of works cited. Articles appearing in scholarly journals are typically peer-reviewed. See also: Peer-reviewed

The College Mathematics Journal
Ethnicity and Inequalities in Health and Social Care
Modern Fiction Studies


A systematic effort conducted in order to locate information. This can be done manually or on a computer.

Search Engine

Complex software or computer platform using algorithms to tag and retrieve information.

Examples: Google, Yahoo, Bing

Search Statement

A combination of search commands and terms entered into a search engine's or database's search boxes. The combination you enter determines your results.


media and body image

"wind power" and bird mortality

(drink* or alcohol*) and college

Search Strategy

A plan or set of steps for conducting a search.


  1. Formulate a topic statement.
  2. Identify the main concepts in the topic.
  3. Select appropriate finding tools for the topic.
  4. Find subject heading(s) for the topic.

Search Term

A word or words typed into a search box of an online catalog, database, or search engine to retrieve relevant information. Quality search terms represent one of the main concepts in a research question or thesis statement.

Examples: Media, Climate Change, Relationships

Secondary Source

  1. Provides information that has already appeared in another form, is about other information, and/or is by someone that was not present for the event or experience.
    See also: Primary/Secondary Sources (by Discipline) Table
  2. Process of accumulating evidence found in previously published work. Secondary sources include evaluations and critiques of primary sources found in books, magazines, newspapers, government documents, reports, web sites, television or radio broadcasts, and so on. – General education shared definition


Primary and Secondary Sources (by Discipline)


Primary Source

Secondary Source


A sculpture

Article discussing a sculpture

Biological Sciences

Original research article

Review or meta-analysis article


Movie filmed in 1948

Movie review


Presidential speech

Web site comparing speeches

Social Sciences

Notes taken by a clinical psychologist

Film about the psychological condition

The idea for this table was motivated by University of Maryland's web site


  1. Any item that provides information to a student, writer, researcher, or library user. Examples: Books, journal articles, interviews, films, web sites.
  2. A specific field in a database record. The source field most often identifies a book or journal title.
    Title: "Alcoholics anonymous, other 12-step movements and psychotherapy in the US population," 1990
    Authors: Room, Robin; Greenfield, Thomas
    Source: Addiction; Apr 93, Vol. 88 Issue 4, p555-562, 8p
    Document Type: Article

Style Manual/Guide

A publication which specifies the details of a particular citation style.


MLA handbook 7th edition
(click to view in catalog)

mla handbook

APA manual 6th edition
(click to view in catalog)

cover of APA manual


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A symbol put at the end or near the end of a word used to tell a database or search engine to retrieve all variant endings of the word. It will search for the stem of the word (the part before the symbol) with any variant ending that comes after it. Databases and search engines all use different symbols, but the asterisk ( * ) is the most commonly used.
See also: Wildcard

Examples: student*, stress*, automo*, feminis*.


A symbol put anywhere in a word to express to a database or search engine to search for any letter in that designated position.
See also: Truncation

Example: wom?n (finds women and woman)

Works Cited

The list of sources (bibliography) used for a project formatted in the MLA citation style and is titled "Works Cited."



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