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Library Glossary



A | B | C | D | F | G | I | K | L | M | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V



- A -

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

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

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

- B -

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, such as author, title, and date of publication.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: A bibliography is a list of citations that appear at the end of a paper, article, chapte,r or book. There are also books entirely composed 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; "NOT" excludes any reference to a term.

- C -

CALL NUMBERS: Call numbers are combinations of letters and numbers that indicate how materials are arranged by subject. Each item in the library has a unique call number. A call number is like an address; it tells us where the item is located in the library. Call numbers are displayed on records in the Austin Catalog.

  • Example:
    • Library of Congress Classification CD 950 .C69 2012
    • Dewey Decimal System 973.7 B245c

CITATION: A brief reference to an article, book, or other material, including such information as author, title, and date of publication.

  • Example:
    • Andersen, Catherine F. Master Student Reader: A Master Student Text. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2010.

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.

- D -

DATABASE: A library database is an electronic catalog and access point to information from published works, often periodicals. Databases can focus on information published in a specific subject like art, biology, history, literature, or nursing, or include a variety of topics.

DESCRIPTOR: A subject heading or index term chosen by an indexer from a controlled vocabulary and assigned to a particular record.

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 reading or printing, or for word processing.

- F -

FALSE DROP: A search result produced from a logically correct search statement that is not relevant to the user's needs.

  • Example:
    • If a music researcher is looking for articles on "opera," she will retrieve information not only about a drama set to music, but also about a "soap opera" or the commerical web browswer, "Opera." The latter two results are false drops.

- G -

GENERAL BOOK COLLECTION: This collection contains the majority of the library’s books, arranged by Library of Congress call number (A-Z).

GOVERNMENT PUBLICATIONS: Materials published by governmental agencies including local, state, and national governments. Items are shelved with a Superintendent of Documents (SuDoc) classification number.

- I -

INFORMATION COMMONS: A collection of computers dedicated to online research.

INTERLIBRARY LOAN: A service offered by libraries in which a user of one library can borrow items or receive electronic copies or photocopies of documents that are owned by another library.

- K -

KEYWORD SEARCH: A database search that allows a user to search all of the fields of a record at the same time.

- L -

LIBRARY CATALOG: A collection of bibliographic records accessible in an interactive mode. Our library catalog is called "Austin."

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS SUBJECT HEADINGS (LCSH): 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, item type, or date of publication.

- M -

MICROFORM: A generic term for film containing images of documents made from a miniturizing process that require a special reader to view. Microfiche and microfilm are types of microforms. Microfiche are small rectangular sheets of film, while microfilm are on reels.

- P -

PERIODICALS: Publications which are published in intervals, and continue for an indefinite period of time. Journals, magazines, and newspapers are types of periodicals.

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, People, and Rolling Stone.

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.

- Q -

QUALITATIVE DATA: Information that characterizes, but does not measure. Qualitative data is not numeric and is often subjective. Researchers use qualitative data to look for motivation and points of view. The data is often collected from essay questions, focus groups, interviews, case studies, portfolios, and "open-ended" questions, using a small sample or even a single case. Responses are not easily analyzed.

QUANTITATIVE DATA: Information that measures, but does not characterize. Quantitative data is numeric, statistically reliable, and objective. Researchers use quantitative data to look for facts and causes. The data is collected from "closed" questions, multiple choice tests, true/false questions, and scales, using a large sample. Quantitative data is easily analyzed using software.

- R -

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

REFERENCE MATERIAL: Material consulted for factual or background information on a topic.

RELEVANCE: The degree of match between a database search 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.

RESEARCH ASSISTANCE DESK (RAD): The service desk where library users can get assistance with the research process, searching article databases, evaluating information, citing sources, and other issues.

- S -

SCHOLARLY SOURCES: Information, especially journal articles, written by and for experts in a particular field of study. These publications are also called academic, peer-reviewed, or refereed.

SEARCH STRATEGY: The plan for how a request will be searched in a database. It will include a series of keywords 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.

- T -

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. The symbol used can vary by database.

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

- U -

UNIVERSITY ARCHIVES and SPECIAL COLLECTIONS: Library unit that collects and preserves records of historical, legal, fiscal, or administrative value to Austin Peay State University.

- V -

VENDOR: A commercial firm, government agency, or 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 systems, and providing software programs to make it searchable.