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Research Services Training

Library terminology


  • A brief summary of the points in an article.
  • A source that compiles, by subject, author or title articles in a selected group of periodicals and includes a summary of each article.


Materials which are purchased for library use. Activities related to obtaining library materials by purchase, exchange, or gift, including pre-order searching for duplicates, ordering and receiving materials, and processing invoices.


A compendium of useful data and statistics relating to countries, personalities, events, and subjects.

annotated bibliography

A list of works with descriptions and a brief summary or critical statement about each.


A publication such as a report, yearbook, or directory issued once a year.


A collection of extracts from the works of various authors, usually in the same genre or about the same subject. (Example: Norton Anthology of English Literature). Sometimes a collection from the works of an individual author.


Section of a book or article containing supplementary materials such as tables or maps.


Public records or historical documents, or the place where such records and documents are kept.


A contribution written for publication in a journal, magazine, or newspaper.


A volume of maps, plates, engravings, tables, etc.


Information in a non-print format. Includes videos, CDs (music/audio), vinyl records, software. Also referred to as media.


Includes compilers, editors, and composers in addition to the main personal and corporate authors who are responsible for a work.

authority file

A list of subject, series, and name headings used in the Library Catalog.


An account of one's life, composed by one's self.

bibliographic citations

The information which identifies a source. Information for a book usually includes the author, title, publisher, and date. The citation for an article includes the author, title of the article, title of the periodical, volume, pages, and date.

bibliographic database

A database which indexes and contains references to the original sources of information. It contains information about the documents in it rather than the documents themselves.

bibliographic record

The unit of information fields (e.g. title, author, publication date, etc.) which describe and identify a specific item in a bibliographic database.


A list of citations or references to books or periodical articles on a particular topic. Bibliographies can appear at the end of a book, journal, or encyclopedia article, or in a separate publication.


Books that need repair and loose issues of journals that are combined or bound into a single volume are sent out of the library system to a company which binds them. These items are not available to users until they come back to the library.


A book about a person written by some other person.


Advertisement found on the book jacket designed to promote the sale of the book.

book review

An evaluation or discussion of a new book by a critic or journalist.

Boolean logic

Referring to logical or algebraic operations, formulated by George Boole, involving variables with two values, such as Value 1 and Value 2; Value 1 or Value 2; and Value 1 but not Value 2.(ALA Glossary)

bound volume

Formed when issues of a periodical title are gathered to form a hardback volume.

call number

A combination of numbers and letters that provide a unique description of each item in a library collection. Items are arranged on the book shelves by call number, so that similar subject content is shelved together for browsing for related items.


A study area for one person.

check out

To borrow books or periodicals from the library for a certain period of time.


To provide access to items outside the library by checking them out.

circulation desk (aka Library Services Desk)

Location in each library where you check out, return or renew items, ask about missing items, or inquire about fines.


A citation is a reference or footnote to an item (such as a book or periodical article); a citation contains the author, title, date of publication, and any other information needed to locate the item.

class number

Top part of a call number which stands for the subject matter of the book.

classification scheme

Classification systems which use numbers and/or letters, to represent the subject content of materials. 

conference report

Papers generated at or for a conference; may include minutes, transcripts, papers, and/or presentations.


Words that indicate the relationship between search terms. Also referred to as Boolean Operators. Common connectors are: AND, OR, NOT.

contemporary materials 

Information produced during the time an event occurs.


A publication issued less than 3 times a year, i.e. not often enough to be called a "periodical."

controlled vocabulary

The standardization of words which may be used to search an index, abstract or information database. There is usually a published listing or thesaurus of preferred terms identifying the system's vocabulary.

corporate entry 

A corporate body (company, institution, government agency, etc.) which is listed in a cataloging record as a heading for a publication (e.g., because the publication has no personal author).


The legal right to control the production, use, and sale of copies of a literary, musical, or artistic work.

course reserves 

Materials that instructors set aside for the students in a class to read. These items may be borrowed for a short period and have very high fines for late returns.

cross reference 

Word or heading that directs you from one part of a book, catalog, or index to another part.


An index which is formed as a result of the incorporation of successive parts of elements. All the material is arranged in one alphabet.

current periodicals 

The latest or most recent issues of journals and magazines that the library receives.


A structured set of information stored on a server or in the cloud.


A library which receives the publications of a government or official body. Ellis Library at the University of Missouri is a depository for publications of the U.S. Government and the State of Missouri.


A simple word or phrase used as a subject.

Dewey Decimal Classification Scheme

A method developed in the nineteenth century by Melville Dewey to classify and shelve items by using numbers to represent subject content. It is a highly structured arrangement of all areas of knowledge into numbers ranging from 000 to 999. The Dewey Decimal Classification System is used for most of the collections at Owens Library.

due date

The date by which borrowed books and materials should be returned. To extend the loan period for materials, the item should be renewed before the due date so that fines are not incurred.


General information source that provides articles on various branches of knowledge. Encyclopedias may be general or subject specific.  *Some Northwest professors allow use of encyclopedias in cited works or reference lists and some do not.


An item or fact that has been "entered" (placed on a list or into a catalog or index or database).


A literary composition in which the author analyzes or interprets a subject, often from a personal point of view.


The part of a record used for a particular category of data. For example, the title field in a database record displays the title of the item.


The amount of money which is owed by the borrower if materials are not returned on time


An oversized book, too large for normal shelving. Folios are shelved on the 3rd floor near the stairs.


The physical form in which information appears.

full text

Some of the article databases available from the library offer full text electronic access to a wide range of articles, either available as a PDF or html file.


A geographical dictionary; usually includes longitude and latitude of a given place, population, size, etc.

government documents

Sources printed by or for government agencies. Much government produced information is available online.


General information source providing quick reference on a given subject. Handbooks may be general or subject specific.

Help with Research/Help with Citing service

A free customized, in-person service offered to students each semester. Assistance in choosing topics for projects, posters, presentations, term papers or other assignments; finding relevant and quality sources, using the online catalog and library databases, showcasing Google Scholar and setting preferences, and citing.


Refers to items retrieved from a database matching criteria you set. For example, if you do a keyword title search in the online catalog for "microbiology" and retrieve 664 items, that can also be called 664 'hits.'


The materials owned or held by a library.


A document format which includes the use of specially coded terms or images which, when selected or "clicked," connect to a linked location or file, or carry out a command to run an application or program.


University ID or the Bearcat card also serves as one’s library card. The ID number starts with 919.


The name of the publisher, distributor, manufacturer, etc. and the place and date of publication, distribution, manufacture, etc. of a bibliographic item.


A book printed before 1501.


Points to where information can be found. 

  • 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.
  • Research ool that arranges (by author, title, or subject) citations to articles in a selected group of periodicals, i.e., journals, magazines, newspapers. 

interlibrary loan (ILL)

Exchange of books or periodical articles between libraries for a brief period. A service used to borrow library materials from other libraries not owned by B. D. Owens Library.

IP address

IP stands for "Internet Protocol". An IP Address is a four part number used to uniquely identify a particular computer on a network using the TCP/IP (Internet) Protocol. For example, could be an IP address. 

ISBN (International Standard Book Number)

A number given a book before publication as a means of identifying it concisely, uniquely, and unambiguously. Current ISBNs are 13 digits and numbers assigned before 2007 are ten digits long.

The five parts of the 13-digit ISBN are: 3 digit prefix (assigned by GS1), group identifier (language-sharing group, individual country or territory), registrant/publisher identifier, title identifier, and check digit.

The four parts of the 10-digit ISBN are: group identifier (national, geographic, language, etc.), publisher identifier, title identifier, and check digit.

ISSN (International Standard Serial Number)

The international numerical code that uniquely identifies a serial publication (like journals).


A single uniquely numbered or dated part of a journal, magazine or newspaper. 


A type of periodical which contains signed scholarly articles. Journals are usually published by academic or association presses and include bibliographies.


Generally, this refers to searching a database using "natural language."

Library of Congress Subject Headings

List of accepted subject headings used in the Library Catalog. For example, capital punishment is the subject that covers the death penalty


A type of periodical containing popular articles which are usually shorter or less authoritative than journal articles on the same subject.


A handwritten or typed composition, rather than printed. Includes groups of personal papers which have some unifying characteristic and individual documents which have some special importance.

MARC (Machine-readable Cataloging)

An international standard format for the arrangement of cataloging information so that it can be stored and retrieved.


A format; photographically reduced images reproduced on a small 4 x 6 sheets of film.


A format; photographically reduced images of printed pages on 35mm film. Older issues of newspapers are often microfilmed because newsprint deteriorates so rapidly.


Formats for storing photographically reduced images onto plastic film. Microfiche and microfilm are two types of microforms. A microform reader/printer is required to read or copy microforms.


A book. A separate treatise on a single subject or class of subjects, or on one person, usually detailed in treatment but not extensive in scope and often containing bibliographies.

monographic series

A monographic series is a set of books that have a number of volumes with a definite end. An encyclopedia is a good example.


A serial issued at stated, frequent intervals (i.e., daily, weekly, or semi-weekly), containing news, opinions, advertisements, and other items of current, often local, interest.

OCLC (Online Computer Library Center)

A bibliographic network based on an online database of approximately 339 million cataloging records from over 72,000 libraries and 113 counties. The OCLC database is used for cataloging, for reference work, and for interlibrary loan.


Material which is not returned to the library by its due date is considered overdue.


Books that are too large for normal shelves; usually designated with a Q (quarto) or F (folio) before the call number.

peer review process

Method used by scholarly journals to assure the quality and relevance of the articles they publish. When an article is submitted, the editor sends copies to several reviewers (or "referees") who are recognized experts in the subject of the article. Each reads the article and offers an opinion on whether it is worthy of publication in the journal, using such criteria as soundness of investigative method, whether the author shows adequate knowledge of research on the subject to date, and whether the articles adds to knowledge in the field. Only if the reviewers agree that it meets the relevant criteria will the article be published.

peer-reviewed article

A scholarly article published in a peer-reviewed journal.

peer-reviewed journal

Also called a "refereed" journal. A scholarly journal that uses the peer review process to select material for publication.


Materials published at regular intervals (at least 3 times a year) and intended to be continued indefinitely. Examples of periodicals include magazines, journals, and newsletters.

primary sources

Fundamental, authoritative documents relating to a subject, used in the preparation of a later work, e.g., original record, diaries, oral histories, contemporary (written at the time) documents, etc.

public domain

Material in the public domain is not copyrighted and may be used freely for any legal purpose. Works may be in the public domain for several reasons. For example, the copyright may have expired or the owner may have given up the copyright. Material published by the federal government is not copyrighted.


An oversized book, being over 11.5" (29 cm.) in height or width.


A database record consists of a citation (with or without an abstract) for a single periodical article.

reference materials

A selection of library materials for use within the library building (located on 1st floor).


An extension of the loan period for charged library materials. As long as no one else requests the book, renewals are unlimited. Renewals may be handled in person at the Library Services Desk or by accessing Your Library Account on the library’s homepage.


1.     A new impression of an edition.

2.     A new edition from a new setting of type for which an impression of a previous edition has been used as copy.

3.     A separately issued article, chapter, or other portion of a previously published larger work, usually a reproduction of an original, but sometimes made from a new setting of type. (ALA Glossary)

research strategy

The methodology or plan followed to find information on a subject or research topic.

reserve materials

A selection of specific books, periodical articles and other materials which faculty have indicated that students must read or that they recommend as supplemental reading for a particular course. These materials are kept on the move shelves behind the Library Services Desk and circulate for a short period of time only (varies). To locate reserve materials, select the CATALOG tab on the library homepage and click Course reserves.

retrospective materials

Sources of information published after an event has occurred.


The content of a work; what information is included and what information is excluded.


1.     To look for information contained in a database by entering words or numbers in a search box.

2.     A process by which Access Services staff look in various library locations for a missing item and hold it for the person requesting the search when it is found.

secondary sources

Books or articles that explain or analyze primary sources. For example, criticism of a literary work.


Materials issued at regular or irregular intervals and intended to continue indefinitely. Includes journals, magazines and yearbooks.


A group of separate bibliographic items related to one another by the fact that each item bears, in addition to its own title proper, a collective title applying to the group as a whole. The individual items may or may not be numbered.) For example, The Death Penalty is an item in the Opposing Viewpoints series (online).


A group of related items. When conducting a search in a database, the results of a search form a set.


Rows of shelves where library books and journals are stored. The largest collection of library book materials is shelved on 3rd floor. 

stop word

A word which is omitted from the index of a database. Stop words are very common words (a, a, the, to, for, etc.) that normally add little meaning to the subject content of the document being indexed. Since stop words are not indexed, they cannot be used as search terms, but will appear when you print documents from the database.

style manual

A publication that sets forth the rules for composition, including format and manner of citing sources, to be used in a particular discipline or profession or by a particular publisher.


A subdivision of a more general subject heading. For example in the subject heading United States--History, History is a subheading of United States.

subject heading

A term or phrase used in indexes and library catalogs to describe the content of library materials in a standardized way. For example, Indians of North America is the subject heading used in the library catalog.

SuDocs (Superintendent of Documents)

The classification scheme used by the U.S. Superintendent of Documents. Used to create call numbers for most U.S. government documents.

table of contents

A list of parts contained within a book or periodical, such as chapter titles and periodical articles, with references by page number or other location symbol to the place they begin and in the sequence in which they appear. (ALA Glossary)

telephone center

A service which will search, request, and renew library materials for you--call 333-8400. Also called the Phone Center. 

tertiary sources

Reference works that identify, point out, summarize, abstract, or repackage the information provided in primary and secondary sources. Examples include subject dictionaries, encyclopedias, handbooks, etc. (Oxford Guide to Library Research, 1998)


A list of all the subject headings or descriptors used in a database, catalog, or hardcopy index, like the Readers’ Guide to Periodical Literature. The thesaurus for the Library Catalog is the Library of Congress Subject Headings.


1.     the main idea or argument of a paper.

2.     a document prepared as a condition for the award of a degree or diploma. For example, a Masters thesis.


In database searching, the addition of a special symbol (*, ?, !, etc.) to the root of a word to match any record in a database that begins with the letters to the left of the symbol. For example, forest? as an keyword search would find records containing the words forest, forestry, forests, forested, etc.

unbound volumes

Current, individual issues of a periodical title that are not yet gathered together as a hardback volume. 

uniform title

The title used for cataloging purposes when a work has appeared under more than one title (such as translations into several languages), or when the work being cataloged is of a collective nature, such as "Complete Works."


An acronym for Uniform Resource Locator. It represents a unique location or "address" of a web resource. 


Contains the total collection of all sequential issues of a journal or magazine over a given time period.


Outdated, worn, or damaged items that are no longer in the library collection or listed in the library catalog.  They are deselected or “weeded” by librarians.


Registered trademark often misused as a generic term for photocopying.


An annual compendium of facts and statistics on a particular subject for the preceding year.


Prepared by the National Information Standards Organization, Z39.50 is an information retrieval service definition and protocol specification for library applications. The standard defines how one computer system can co-operate with other systems for the purpose of searching databases and retrieving records.

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