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Library Glossary

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AUTHORITY CONTROL:  The means used to ensure consistency in entering variant names, titles, spellings, and so forth into a database.

Example: works about "movies," "motion pictures," "cinema," and "films" are all entered under the established subject heading "Motion pictures."

BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD:  A description of an item of recorded information, which includes all the data necessary to uniquely identify it.  This information contains the basic elements for citations.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:  A bibliography is a list of citations that appear at the end of a paper, article, chapter or book. There are also books entirely made up of bibliographies. These are usually compilations of citations on a particular subject or by a particular author.

BIOGRAPHY:  A written account of a person's life.

BOOLEAN OPERATORS:  Set logic used to indicate relationships between search terms; named after mathematician George Boole.  The Boolean operator AND requires both the linked terms to be present simultaneously.  OR requires at least one term in a concept block to be present, while NOT excludes any reference to a term.

CALL NUMBERS:  Call numbers are placed on the spine of the book to locate it on the shelves. Call numbers are displayed on records in the Austin G. Catalog to help you find the book.

Example:          Library of Congress Classification   CD 950 .C69 1992       

                            Dewey Decimal   973.7 B245c 

CIRCULATION DESK:  The service desk where books and other items are loaned or checked out to library users.

CITATION:  A brief reference to an article, book, or other material; usually includes author, title, source, place and date of publication.


Andersen, Catherine F. Master Student Reader: A Master Student Text. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2007.

CONTROLLED VOCABULARY:  A list of subject terms used to assign index terms to records in a uniform manner in a given database.  Not all databases use a controlled vocabulary; these can only be searched free-text.
DATABASE:  A collection of related records in machine-readable form.  Databases may be of various types---bibliographic, numeric, directory, or full-text.  It is the computer version of a file.
DEFAULT:  An operation that the computer is programmed to perform when it receives no instruction with regard to the file, field, or set on which to perform an operation.

DESCRIPTOR:  A subject heading or index term chosen by an indexer from a controlled vocabulary and assigned to a particular record.  A “bound” descriptor is a multiword phrase indexed as a complete phrase in the Basic index.  Such phrases may only be searched in selected fields that are database specific.

DOWNLOAD:  The transfer of data from one electronic storage medium (the host system) to another (the user machine), usually the results of a search, for offline printing, or for word processing.
END USER:  A person who actually performs his/her own search, most frequently on the Internet.
FILE:  A collection of related records from a single source.  Although the term “file” is often used as synonymous with “database,” some of the larger databases may be divided into more than only file, usually by date.

FALSE DROP:  A citation produced from a logically correct search statement that is not relevant to the user’s needs.  This is usually the result of an incorrect relationship between search terms.

Example:  If a music researcher is looking for articles on “operas,” they will retrieve information about a drama set to music.  However, they might also retrieve information about soap operas or the commercial browser called Opera.   The latter two results would be false drops.

FREE TEXT SEARCHING:  Searching for words or phrases in fields other than the descriptor field, usually by title, abstract, or full text.  Proximity operators are used to specify word positions and to search for phrases in these uncontrolled fields.  It is generally better to choose highly specific search terms when searching free-text.
FORMAT:  In online search terms, this refers to the form of output, which determines how much of the selected record(s) will be printed (e.g., full record, title only).  Each database offers a selection of predetermined formats, or the searcher may define an original format.
GATEWAY:  Equipment or system designed to connect two or more dissimilar networks. 
GENERAL BOOK COLLECTION:  This collection contains the majority of the library’s books, arranged by Library of Congress call number (A-Z). 
GIGO:  Garbage In, Garbage Out.
GOVERNMENT PUBLICATIONS:  Materials published by governmental agencies including local, state, and national governments.  Items are shelved with a Superintendent of Documents (SuDoc) classification number. 
HTML:  Hypertext Markup Language; used to “construct” Web pages.
HTTP:  Hypertext Transport Protocol; allows servers and browsers to communicate on the Web.
HYPERTEXT:  A system of writing and displaying text that enables the text to be linked in multiple ways, to be available at several levels of detail, and to contain links to related documents.  The World Wide Web is a multimedia hypertext environment.
IDENTIFIER:  An index term assigned to a record by an indexer other than from the controlled vocabulary. These are usually proper nouns, which make useful search terms but are too numerous to be included in the thesaurus (e.g. geographical places, personal names, acronyms).
INFORMATION COMMONS:  A collection of computers dedicated to online research.   
INFORMATION DESK:  The service desk where librarians can assist you with research, searching article databases, evaluating resources, or other questions.
INTERLIBRARY LOAN:  A service the library offers that lends an item from its collection, or provides a photocopy of an item, to another library.
INTERNET:  An international network of many computer networks linked via common communications protocols. 
KEYWORD:  Individual word searchable in any field of a record.

LCSH:  Library of Congress Subject Headings.  The controlled vocabulary used for indexing records by many libraries and bibliographic utilities.

Example:   The Union Cavalry in the Civil War

Subjects:        United States – History – Civil War, 1861-1865 – Campaigns

                                                   United States. Army. Cavalry – History – Civil War, 1861-1865

LIMITING:  Searching for terms when they are combined with some other characteristic, such as language or date of publication.
MICROFICHE:  System of photographically miniaturizing printed material on small rectangular “sheets” of photographic film viewable on special readers.

MICROFILM:  Miniaturizing process similar to microfiche, but reproduced on reels of photographic cellulose film.  As with fiche, requires special reader.

MICROFORMS:  A generic term for any form containing microimages. Microfiche and microfilm are examples of types of microforms.
NESTED LOGIC:  The use of logical operators to form a compound search statement and determine the order in which they will be executed.  For example, (pets NOT (cats OR dogs)).
(Library Catalog):  A catalog based on Machine-Readable Catalog (MARC) records accessible in an interactive mode. Austin alog is Austin Peay State University’s local online public access catalog.
PERIODICALS:  Publications which are printed in intervals, and continue to be printed for an indefinite period of time. Journals, magazines, and newspapers are types of periodicals such as The Journal of American History, Research Quarterly, and New York Times.

PLAGIARISM:  The act of appropriating excerpts, ideas, or passages of another author and passing the material off as one's own creation.

POPULAR SOURCE:  Information, especially articles, written to entertain or inform the general public. Some examples of popular magazines include Time, Newsweek, and People.
POSTINGS:  The number of documents retrieved for any term used in a search, also known as search results.
PRIMARY SOURCE:  Fundamental or original document relating to a particular subject, experiment, time period, or event. Autobiographies, journals, diaries, and creative works are considered primary sources.
QUANTITATIVE DATA:  Includes responses received from “closed” questions, multiple choice tests, true/false questions, scales, etc.  Quantitative data can usually be analyzed using spreadsheet software. Characteristics are: numerical form, statistically reliable, allows for statistical comparison and correlations, usually employs a large sample, structured techniques (tests, surveys, closed-ended questions, etc.) objective, usually can be generalized, and looks for facts and causes.

QUALITATIVE DATA:  Comes from essay questions, focus groups, interviews, case studies, portfolios, and “open-ended” questions.  Responses are a little more difficult to analyze. Characteristics are:  not numerical, provides “richness,” allows for ambiguities, usually employs a small sample or even single case, can be unstructured or semi-structured (interviews, focus groups, etc.), can be written, verbal, visual, etc., often subjective, can be exploratory, assumes dynamic reality, and looks for motivations and “point of view.”

RECORD:  A collection of related items of data treated as a unit and stored in the linear file.  A record is the complete description of one document in a database.

REFERENCE BOOKS:  Books that are consulted for their factual or background information on a topic and not meant to be read from cover to cover.

RELEVANCE:  The degree of match between a search request and the items retrieved as a result of a search for that request.
REMOTE ACCESS:  The ability to access and use digital information from a location off-site from where the information is physically located.
SCHOLARLY SOURCES:  Information, especially journal articles, written by and for experts in a particular field of study. Also sometimes called refereed or peer-reviewed.
SEARCH STRATEGY:  The plan, normally be planned in advance, for how a request will be searched on the computer.  It will include a series of search statements combined by Boolean operators, and could possibly include limits and truncation.
SECONDARY SOURCES:  A scholar's description or analysis of primary sources. A secondary source is a step removed from the original accounts of an event or experience.

THESAURUS:  An alphabetical listing of subject words that comprise the controlled vocabulary for a particular database.  Terms from the thesaurus are selected by indexers to describe the document and by searchers to find documents for retrieval.  Most thesauri also list the subject-related terms for each entry as an aid to selecting the most specific terms.

Example:  If searching for information on “first grade” in the ERIC database, a researcher would need to find the appropriate term in the database’s Thesaurus.  “Grade 1” is the appropriate term to use for first grade.

TRUNCATION:  A search technique that allows for variant spellings and word endings through the use of a special symbol (wildcard).  The actual symbol used varies on different systems.

Example:  nurs* [nurse, nurses, nursing, nursed, nursery, and nurseries]

UPLOAD:  The transfer of data from one electronic medium (the user machine) to another (the host system) in order to speed the transfer of data.  An efficient means of logging on to the system.
URL:  Uniform Resource Locator – a Web address.
UNIVERSITY ARCHIVES and SPECIAL COLLECTIONS:  Collects and preserves records of historical, legal, fiscal, or administrative value to Austin Peay State University.
VENDOR:  A commercial firm, government agency, or database producer in the business of offering access to a database or group of databases.  Vendors are responsible for rearranging the information provided by the database producers, loading it into their computers, and providing software programs to make it searchable. 

VENN DIAGRAM:  A diagram using closed circles to represent subject sets as an aid in formulating search logic.

Venn Diagram

VIRTUAL LIBRARY:  Access to electronic information in a variety of remote locations through a local (Library Catalog) or other gateway, such as the Internet.
WWW:  The World Wide Web (Web for short), the graphical environment that gives hypertext-linked access to information on the Internet.

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